As a stretch teacher, I often see poor stretching technique, followed by the comment, "Yeah, I stretch but it doesn't seem to do much."
Well, if you're stretching like the majority of people, you may as well warm up with a cuppa instead because it's just about as effective!
You don't need to become a pretzel. (In fact, this can actually be counter-productive.) You just need to maintain a normal range of movement (ROM) to ride comfortably and efficiently.
Here's how to stretch safely, efficiently, and effectively this winter.
As a cyclist, most of the areas you need to focus on are from the hips down. Long pants will help keep your hips and legs warm, helping you achieve a better stretch.
This helps keep the heat in the larger muscle groups for a more effective stretch. Try Skins or other compression garments under trackies for maximum effect.
No need to go full Bikram and sweat your pants off -- that's completely unnecessary. A warm room will help you relax and get comfortable. If you're stretching properly, you'll warm up quick enough.
For big muscle groups like hamstrings and glutes or tight areas like hip flexors, stretching 2-3 times per week is plenty. These spot can be pretty sore a day or so afterwards, so give them enough recovery time in order to maximise your sessions.
This allows your body time to relax and understand you're not trying to hurt it. If you're looking to make significant changes to your flexibility, hold each stretch for 60 seconds while remaining relaxed.
Whichever side is more difficult, tense or sore, repeat an extra time: it's where you need it most.
This seems obvious but can be difficult in practice! Breathing out allows you to relax further into the stretch. This taps into your body's natural ability to let go, allowing you a deeper stretch and greater effect.
If it's painful, you've gone too far. Bring it back a bit, breathe, relax into it, and go deeper -- slow and steady. Don't be afraid of your own body. If you take it slowly, you can't hurt yourself. Which brings me to...
You'll do yourself no favours trying to push beyond what your body can handle. Like anything, achieving your ideal flexibility takes time and practice. Everyone is made up differently; don't compare yourself to others. Take your time, listen to your body, and once you've mastered one exercise progress to the next.
You'll get the maximum effect by having a dedicated stretch session to focus on the areas you really need to work on. This will help you stay injury-free and increase your flexibility, helping you perform better and smash your PBs.
Dynamic exercises that mimic the movement you'll be doing while cycling are a much better option prior to jumping on the bike.
Your top areas to focus on when stretching are: quads, hip flexors, lower back, hamstrings, calves, shoulders and chest region, and any other areas you feel stiff.
Hi! I'm Holly Hicks, the founder of Fluid Movement and Wellbeing and the Restore+Rebalance Stretch Program. For the past 20 years, I've treated thousands of people in clinical practice as an elite sports and remedial massage therapist and taught hundreds of in-person stretch classes and workshops as a stretch therapy coach.