Back in the saddle Part 1: Strength training and stretches for cyclists
This story is the first in a series about cycling in Routt County, which will touch on safety, strength training and stretches, tuneups and best places to ride.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cycling season has started strong since there’s little else to do amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountain bikes fill the open trails on Emerald Mountain, while road bikes are constantly spotted on River Road and the Yampa River Core Trail. It doesn’t take long to find a gravel rider on the more rural county roads, either.
The gorgeous weather has prompted people working from home to take quick rides on lunch breaks or after work. As the skiing and boarding muscles are put to rest, the biking muscles are being woken up very abruptly. There are a few simple stretches and strength training exercises that go a long way when it comes to caring for those muscles that work so hard to get Steamboat bikers where they want to go.
Amy Charity, indoor cycling coach at Old Town Hot Springs and professional cyclist, has a few easy exercises that even the busiest cyclist can find time for.
When cycling, quads and glutes are putting in the most work to pump the pedals mile after mile. Through that repeated motion, hamstrings and hip flexors tend to get tight, so Charity has one stretch to address each area.
“If you have limited time and get done with a ride, you can do that in under 10 minutes and really get those core muscles that you worked a lot,” Charity said. “If you can finish every single ride and do those four, you’re off to a great start with stretching.”
Quads: While standing and using a wall as support, pull your foot behind you by grabbing your upper ankle. Provide some tension by pressing your foot into your hand and feel the stretch along the front of your thigh.
Glutes: Lay on your back and bend your knees. Create a “4” shape by lifting your right leg and placing your right foot on your left knee. Pull your left knee toward you to feel the stretch.
Hamstrings: Charity suggests laying on your back, extending one leg and lifting the other to get a nice stretch along the back of the entire leg.
“It’s really common, when you look around a yoga class, and the cyclists are the ones who struggle to touch their toes,” she said. “That’s because you never reach a full extension when you’re doing a pedaling motion. Your hamstrings are really constricted all the time. They’re not at their full extension. A hamstring stretch is really important.”
Hip flexors: Another commonly tight area for avid cyclists are the hip flexors, a series of muscles that connect the upper thigh to the pelvic bone.
“A kneeling lunge is a great option for that or to sort of cross your legs and press down to get a stretch,” Charity said.
As more cyclists take to the roads, it’s important to remember what those in control of the cars and bikes are required to do to keep each other safe. Most of the time, bikes are not allowed on sidewalks and are expected to move with the flow of traffic and not against it. A full list of rules can be found at bicyclecolorado.org.
While on a bike
- Obey all traffic laws, signs and signals
- Ride on the shoulder or right side of the road unless: you feel the shoulder is unsafe, you’re preparing to turn left, or are overtaking a slow vehicle
- May ride side by side if not impedeing traffic, otherwise, ride singlefile
- Yield to pedestrians
While in a car
- It is Colorado law to pass with at least three feet of clearance
- You may cross a double yellow to pass a cyclist when oncoming traffic is clear
If a person in a motor vehicle behaves dangerously, dial *277 to reach Colorado State Patrol.
Planks: Holding a plank engages nearly the entire body with no necessary equipment. They can be modified to be easier or more difficult, and Charity loves them.
Lay on your stomach and prop yourself up on your forearms and toes. Engage your core and hold for 30 seconds, a minute or longer.
“Your core and your stabilizing muscles are critical on the bike,” Charity said. “Some of the first things I hear from people are, ‘Oh my lower back hurts or my shoulders hurt.’ A lot of that stems back to core, because they’re not holding themselves properly on the bike.”
Bridges: To do a bridge, lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Press into the ground, lifting your butt off the ground. Squeeze your core and your quads. Charity said these are great because it works all the key muscles for cycling: core, quads, glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Burpees: Like planks, burpees work every part of your body, but they also get the heart rate up. Start by standing, then quickly crouch down on the ground on all fours. Extend the legs behind you, then do a pushup. Bring the legs back under your body and explode upwards, reaching your hands to the sky.
“I also really like burpees, when I say I really like, it’s a love-hate relationship,” Charity said. “They help with explosive power, and they work every muscle in your body.”
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