Spring is here! Here’s how to get those legs nice and injury-proof(ish) so you can enjoy the great outdoors.
Perhaps there was a time when you, a sturdy, fit, carefree individual, could happily launch straight into your physical activity of choice without a moment's concern about whether your muscles were properly warmed up. Or maybe carving out a half-hour for exercise is enough of a challenge as it is, and you have little interest in wasting any of that time halfheartedly performing the same tired hamstring stretches you learned in middle school P.E. We get it: You know that warming up is important, but knowing what to do—and when, and how often, and for how long—is hard! Sometimes it's easier just to skip it altogether.
This is a bad idea, but the good news is that we're here to help. Given that the weather is finally, mercifully about to turn, some of you might be thinking about breaking out the spandex and road bike for your next nice-day weekend workout. We asked John Kohlhepp of roll: Bicycle Company for some tips on how to ensure that your next ride is as efficient, effective, and injury-free as possible.
Stretch it out. Start with the indispensable butterfly—while sitting upright, pull both feet toward your body with your hands and push your knees gently down to the ground. If you're feeling adventurous, though, try a frog pose. Start in push-up position with your knees double- or triple-shoulder-width apart. Lower your knees to the ground, pushing the balls of your feet together if possible. Then slowly push your hips into the ground and raise your chest, arching your back. Disclaimer: This stretch is extremely effective but also weird-looking, so Kohlhepp kindly advises that you do this at home and not on the side of a crowded bike trail.
Skip! Not just for kids. Skipping helps to open your hips and takes your body through ranges of motion not covered in the typical cycling movement. The regular, "A" version of the skip is great, but if you're up for something more, try the "B" skip: Instead of extending your front leg straight out in front of you, bring it 90 degrees to the outside of your body. To perform a "C" skip, raise your front foot and extend your leg so that your knee is nearly straight.
Do your weekend-warrior trips right. On those nice, long rides where completing the distance is more important than the time it takes to do so, make sure you ease into the day properly. Spend at least 15 minutes at the beginning of the ride at about half of your maximum effort level, and then another 15 minutes at 60-70 percent, before topping out somewhere in the 75 percent range. Also, wear sunscreen.
Listen to your heart. If after your warm-up you discover that your heart rate is all over the place, it can mean one of two things: Your base fitness level is low, which means that you should focus on improving that before trying out tougher rides, or your warm-up wasn’t long enough, which means that you rushed into more demanding exercise too early. If it is the latter, slow down and spend more time warming up at a lower intensity level. (You wannabe badass.)
Don't forget to cool down. This is crucial for racers and competitive long-distance cyclists, but everyone can participate, really. If you're giving it your all, and especially if you're doing so for an extended period of time, be sure to gradually work your way down in five-minute increments: five minutes at 90 percent maximum effort, five minutes at 80 percent, and so on, all the way down to a leisurely 50 percent clip. When it comes to hard rides, a good rule of thumb is that the warm-up should reflect the type of ride—long ride, long warm-up. The cool down, though, should be opposite—long ride, short cool down.