5 years ago, I barely stretched, did no training outside of riding, and was definitely far from being anywhere close to being 'well-rounded.' I was also consistently plagued by small nagging injuries. Rarely major, but little aches and pains and that would definitely hinder my ability to enjoy a long week of riding.
It all changed when I started working with River Valley Health 3 years ago. They opened my eyes to what I could do to avoid coming in non-stop to deal with injuries and muscle imbalances. As I started working with them more and more, and using their training facility, I also started to see another little plus: increased power outputs! 2 winters ago, I spent 2-3 hours a week on the bike at most, focusing on a training program off the bike, and still saw my FTP stay constant from my peak in the fall to the following Spring!
Anyways, bike geek aside, I can't say enough good things about River Valley Health and their training facility, ATHX (formerly known as the Base). I trust these guys to keep me feeling good, and they haven't let me down yet.
Which leads me into this post, a few quick stretches and exercises that are directly applicable to cyclists. Sneak some sets of these into your routine a couple times a week to see some benefit in flexibility and strength. Thanks to ATHX Performance for helping with this post! If you're interested in learning about their group classes or personal training sessions, visit their website by clicking here.
Hip Flexor Stretch
When you're on a bike, your hip flexors never fully extend. This constant state leads to tightness, which is definitely compounded if you also work a desk-job in your spare time. Sitting doesn't do any favors for your hip flexors either! Tight hip flexors can lead to both knee and back-pain troubles, not to mention a loss of power in your pedal stroke.
The couch stretch. Kneel in front of your couch and lift one of your ankles and place your leg on the couch. Step forward with the other leg, planting it with a 90 degree bend, then stand up straight and tall. Make sure your spine stays neutral and does not hyper-extend. You should feel a pull in your hip flexor and your quad. To intensify the stretch, slide backwards.
Your glutes are where the most power in your pedal stroke originates from, Which also means it can be one of the first things to tighten up on you after a few hard days of riding. When your glutes are too tight, you start to compensate to muscles that aren't equipped to handle the same kinds of power outputs, leading to loss of power output and an increased risk of injury.
Lay flat on your back with your right leg at a 90 degree bend with your foot planted on the wall. Bring your left leg up and rest your ankle just below your knee of the leg planted on the wall. Bring your left hand up and push the knee of your left leg towards the wall. You'll know you're doing it right when you feel a good stretch in your glute. Play around with leg placement to feel the stretch in different areas of your glute. Like any stretch, don't go deeper than is comfortable, it shouldn't be painful.
Lunges are a good way to hone in your leg strength, targeting your glutes and quads. Stronger glutes and quads means more power output in your power stroke. Additionally, lunges target a single leg at a time, so you can identify and improve any imbalance in your leg strength that you may have.
Stand straight, engage your core, and keep your upper body straight. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until your front leg is bent 90 degrees. Keep your knee in line with your ankle - your knee should not fall forward from your ankle - and your toes of both feet straight, pointing forward. Lower yourself until your back knee is just hovering off the ground, hold, then rise up controlled, making sure to use your front leg to stand up, NOT your back leg hip flexor.
That's it, that's all. I'll try to do a few more of these posts over the late summer and fall, but at some point, we'll run out of the easily described exercises and stretches. For the real deal you'll have to visit ATHX Performance. ;)
As always, thanks for reading!