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Warming Up and Cooling Down

By Laurel-Lea Shannon

Cyclists, especially new ones, are notorious for not warming up before rides or cooling down and stretching afterwards. It’s easy to jump on your bike and snort off down the road at top speed. But skipping your warm up before cycling can cause injuries, sore leg muscles, and make you feel short of breath throughout the ride. Warming up will improve your performance on the bike and reduce the risk of injury. And there are many other benefits:

Makes muscles more supple, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
Loosens the muscles, ligaments and joints, reducing post-ride stiffness and soreness.
Increases your circulation, bringing extra oxygen and nourishment to muscles while you’re exercising.
Increases cardiac output and blood flow to the skeletal muscles (reducing the likelihood of feeling short of breath).

Warming Up

Depending upon the time of year (if it’s warm or cold outside), your age and your physical type, warming up can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Diane Stibbard, Triathlon Canada’s 2005 Masters Female Duathlete of the Year, recommends doing  warm up and cool down exercises on your bike. “You want to do warm ups and cool downs that are specific to biking. There’s no point going out for a long walk and then jumping on your bike because you haven’t warmed up the muscles you’ll be using when you go for your ride.”

On flat terrain, start in the small chain ring (front rings) in a light gear and spin at a high cadence. If your average cadence is 90 to 95 RPM then it should be 100 to 110 RPMs during your warm up. This will warm up your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments without putting any pressure on them.

Cooling Down

Cycling hard causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand. which sends more blood to your legs and feet. If you stop suddenly, the blood can pool in your legs and feet, making you feel dizzy. You can even pass out.

After your ride, take 10 to 15 minutes to cool down. Gale Bernhardt, USA Triathlon World Cup coach, says, “After each workout and race, spin easily to cool down. By the end of your cool down, your heart rate should be in Zone1 or less” (that means your heart rate is less than 80 BPM). Finish off by stretching.


Interview with Diane Stibbard
Bicycling For Women, Gale Bernhardt

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