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Physiotherapy in Calgary for Cycling

Welcome to the Chinook Rehab Centre resource about cycling.

Cycling is a fantastic activity, whether you do it for fun and exercise as a hobby or compete at the highest levels of the sport in the Tour de France.  However, it is also a sport that is incredibly easy to hurt yourself while participating in it.

You don't have to be a professional cyclist to understand that the least of any cyclists' worries is a painful fall off the bike.  In fact, cycling is a sport that has many repetitive motions and opens any participant up to knee, back, neck, ankle, foot, and elbow injuries.

Therefore, to stay in top shape, you must read this section of our site.

We have designed this section with both the casual biker and the competitive cyclist in mind.  We want to make sure that you have the information that will not only keep you planted firmly on the bike seat, but also know which exercises will keep you pedaling towards the finish line.

Stretching Guide for Cycling Share this page Physiotherapy in Calgary for Cycling

Welcome to Chinook Rehab Centre's Stretching Guide for Cycling.

Stretching is an essential part of successful cycling.  A good stretching routine can help to minimize muscle imbalances, prevent injury and improve your cycling performance.  The following stretching program is designed for cyclists who do not have any current injuries or individual stretching needs.  If you have an injury, or a specific mechanical imbalance that may be holding back your cycling performance, your Chinook Rehab Centre physiotherapist can design a stretching program just for you.

When is the Best Time to Stretch?

When your muscles are warm and relaxed!  If you take your performance seriously, stretch after your 5-10 minute warm up (low intensity cycling) and after you cycle.  If you are more of a leisurely cyclist you may prefer to stretch when you stop for a break rather than after your warm-up, especially during longer cycling trips, then stretch again after cycling.  Competitive cycling is a dynamic sport so you'll need both dynamic and static stretching.  Dynamic stretches form part of your pre-ride or pre-race warm-up.  Static stretches can be included at the end of your cool down or at other times to improve your overall fitness.  Road racers will have different demands than downhill mountain bikers and will need to tailor their dynamic warm up according to the demands of their sport.

Pre-ride/ pre-race:

  1. General warm up (5-10 minutes).  The aim of a general warm-up is to get the blood flowing to all parts of the body used during cycling, especially the cardiovascular system.  A cycling warm-up will usually involve an on-road light ride or a steady spin on a stationary trainer.
  2. Dynamic stretching.  Gradually the speed and intensity of cycling is increased. Off the bike, this may involve dynamic torso twists, jumps, and lunges.
  3. Technical and speed warm up.  This includes high intensity, cycling specific drills.  Mountain bike drills for speed and agility should be kept short with recovery time between drills to ensure you are not fatigued before your race. Road racers may complete short hills, or flat road attack/sprint drills. 

Post-ride/ post-race:

  1. Cool down.  A cool down allows the body, in particular the cardiovascular system, to gradually return to its resting state.  A cool-down reduces your chances of becoming dizzy or faint after exercise, allows any waste such as lactic acid that has built up during exercise to dissipate and may reduce your chance of having Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Cool down by gradually reducing your intensity of cycling for about 5 minutes.This time may be shorter for sprinters and downhill riders, and much longer for distance cyclists.
  2. Static stretches.  Commence your stretching regime directly after a short cool-down, before the muscles have cooled completely.

Rules for Dynamic Stretching:

  • Warm up your muscles first, then stretch while your muscles are still warm.
  • Move through your range of movement, keeping control of the movement with your muscles. 
  • Do not allow momentum to control the movement by "flinging" or "throwing" your body parts around.
  • You may feel light resistance in your muscles, but you should never feel pain during a stretch.
  • Start with slow, low intensity movements, and gradually progress to full-speed, race-like movements (particularly for technical downhill mountain bikers).

Rules for Static Stretching:

  • Warm up the muscles first.
  • Slowly take your muscles to the end of their range.  You will feel slight resistance in the muscle, but you should never feel pain during a stretch.
  • Hold the stretch in a static position.  Do not bounce.
  • Hold each stretch for 20 seconds.  Repeat each stretch 3-4 times.

Essential Stretches for Cycling:

Recreational cyclists may only need to stretch the "prime movers" of cycling - your big leg and buttock muscles.  Competitive cyclists and any cyclists riding for extended periods will want to add back, chest and arm stretches to relieve the muscles that work to stabilize your cycling position.  Stretch these muscles each time you cycle and don't forget to stretch both sides.  The complete stretch program shown below will take about 16 minutes to complete.

Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius)

Quadriceps Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

 Hip Flexor Stretch 

ITB Stretch 

Gluteal Stretch 

Back Stretch (Extension) 

Anterior Shoulder Stretch 

Wrist Flexor Stretch 

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Physiotherapy in Calgary for Cycling

Welcome to Chinook Rehab Centre's guide for selecting cycling equipment.

We recommend a few general considerations for selecting your equipment in order to stay comfortable and minimize injury while cycling.  The basic equipment you will require for cycling is a bike and helmet.  Of course, there are plenty of optional extras, and, as for all outdoor sports, don't forget you'll need to plan for sun protection and hydration too.

Bike:

The type of bike you use will vary depending on the type of cycling you are interested in, how much time you spend cycling and your budget.  Most important for your comfort as a cyclist is that the bike you use fits you.  If you are purchasing your own bike, go to a shop that specializes in cycling, so that the salesperson is able to select the right frame size for you and adjusts the bike correctly for you based on your body dimensions and cycling needs.  A borrowed bike should also be adjusted to suit your height from crotch/groin  to the ground ("saddle height") and your upper body dimensions ("handlebar reach").  As a general guide, when you are seated on the saddle and your heel is resting on the pedal in the 6 o'clock position your knee should be bent between 0 and 15 degrees.  When your hands are in position on the handles and you are seated on the saddle there should be a slight bend at your elbows. For endurance cycling and recreational riding the saddle is usually kept level.  With your bike adjusted for this position, take a test ride and check that you feel comfortable, you can breath properly and your pedaling feels efficient.

Your Chinook Rehab Centre physiotherapist can offer you an individual postural assessment on your bike and can suggest adjustments to your position for any special needs you may have.

Helmet:

A hard-shell bicycle helmet will protect your head, brain and upper and mid face should you have a collision on road or off.  (Ref:  http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/13/3/190.) Your helmet should be certified by the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) or CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission in the U.S.).  Before you buy a helmet, try it on.  The helmet should be stable on your head before you do up the straps.  Once the straps are fastened the helmet should not move at all as you move your head.

Bicycle helmets are designed for a single-impact only.   The foam in the helmet crushes on impact (such as falling on the pavement) to absorb the impact.  So, if you've had a crash, you'll need to replace your helmet even if there is no visible damage to the helmet.  (ref: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/349.pdf)

Sun Protection Gear:

If you are cycling outdoors apply sunscreen and lip balm before you ride.  Select clothing that will offer sun protection.  Don't forget sunglasses which will not only protect your eyes from the sun, but also from insects and the wind.

Hydration Gear:

Keeping hydrated will help you stay alert while cycling, may help to prevent muscle cramps and will help your post ride recovery.  Fit your bike with a drink bottle cage and water bottle or use a hydration backpack.  We recommend that you drink about 300-400 mL before you ride (ref: http://www.ausport.gov.au/sportscoachmag/nutrition2/pre-event_nutrition), and 250mL (1 cup) of water or sports drink every 20 minutes of cycling (ref: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/106/1/158) and for one hour after you cycle.  Your fluid requirements will vary depending on the environmental conditions and your body size.  To check that you are adequately hydrating, you can weigh yourself before and after you cycle.  If your weight remains the same then you are likely to be well hydrated.

Optional Extras:

Safety reflectors,lights and bells:

If you cycle at night or in poor visibility, extra reflectors and head and rear lights help other traffic to see you.  In many cities, a front white light and rear red flashing light are mandatory for cyclists. Check your local bylaws for regulations in your area.  A bell is essential for city cycling to alert motorists and pedestrians to your presence, particularly when riding along side parked cars.

Gloves:

Cycling gloves are padded, fingerless gloves that absorb shock and provide palm protection in the event of a crash.

Cycling Shoes, Cleats, Toe clips, Pedal cages:

Standard cross-training shoes are adequate for recreational cyclists without any foot problems.  Serious cyclists may chose cycling shoes with cleats, pedals with toe clips or pedal cages that all help to keep your feet in contact with your pedals at high cadence. (Cited by http://www.topbike.com.au/pdfs/colson-bicyc-austjuly_aug2002.pdf.  Original reference not viewed- available for purchase: https://commerce.metapress.com/content/un8vy0aae3nk71cm/resource-secured/?target=fulltext.pdf&sid=e05yuu55d3bt3245jircmk45&sh=www.springerlink.com).  If you choose to use these, practice releasing your feet from the pedals at a park before cycling on the road with them for the first time.

Cycling shoes are more rigid than running shoes so that power from your feet is efficiently transferred to the pedals, but should be comfortable like any sports shoe - so try them on before you buy them.  Cycling shoes should provide arch support for your feet throughout the cycle.

Cycle clothing:

Any comfortable shorts and shirt will do for the recreational cyclist in fine weather.  If you are riding on the road, wear a shirt that is easily seen.  If you are spending a lot of time cycling you may prefer cycle shorts with padding for extra comfort, and fitted clothing made of breathable materials to help keep cool and prevent skin irritation.

Pump, Repair Kit and Tool Kit:

A pump and repair kit may save you a long walk.  Repair kits are made to fit unobtrusively under your bike saddle, with the pump sitting along your bike frame.  Similarly, a tool kit may be useful to you if you are taking extended rides, assuming you know how to use it.  Maintaining your bike in good condition will reduce your chances of having to use these kits.

Computer:

A computer can be a fun motivational tool, displaying and collecting information such as distance travelled, maximum speed and time, and, in some models, even heart rate and GPS maps.   A cycle computer can help to keep you on target with your goal cadence, usually 80-90 revolutions per minute. (Ref:  American Physiotherapy Association at http://www.bicyclenewswire.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.showrelease&cid=13&id=46).

Welcome to Chinook Rehab Centre's resource about common cycling injuries.

Correct treatment of an acute injury will minimize recovery time.  Chinook Rehab Centre can also help you prevent re-injury by teaching you how to maintain good posture and muscle balance, prescribing you a thorough stretching regime, and providing tips for cycling equipment selection.

 

Relevant Links:

 

 Chinook Rehab Centre provides services for physiotherapy in Calgary.

WE ARE NOW ACCEPTING PATIENT FROM 05 MAY 2020 – WELCOME BACK! We will provide masks and gloves free to all patients who come to the clinic without them.
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