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S-T-R-E-T-C-H It Out!
By Jim Joyce
hesitates is lost"
Don't make a habit of bucking wise old sayings, but when it comes to stretching, "A stitch in time saves nine." And a good, long stretch also prevents injuries and improves cycling performance, especially as cooler weather slows life down a bit.
"A good, complete stretching workout should last about 15 minutes," says Mark Macri, a physical therapist at Belmont Physical Therapy in St. Clairsville, Ohio. "People don't do enough stretching."
Why all the time? How many people want to lie around after they've driven a couple of hours to get to a favorite tour or mountain bike trail? Who's got that kind of time in the morning before a biking to work?
Make the time, says Macri. It's a helpful way to prevent injury and keep muscles and joints healthy. While a good stretching routine should run about 15 minutes, individual muscle stretches should be held for longer than what is commonly practiced.
"Slow, easy, sustained stretches are best," says Macri. "Not so hard that they aggravate pain, but with an intensity that can be held for 15-30 seconds. And don't bounce!"
It's also important that the stretching involves the whole body.
"Cycling is predominately a lower body sport," Macri says, "but don't neglect the upper body. It is very much involved and needs just as much stretching."
Also, says Macri, is is just as important to stretch afterwards as it is beforehand. This should be as careful and thorough as the pre-ride routine. "This is one thing people often don't do," Macri says.
While it is important to stretch all the muscles and joints, the muscle that shows up for treatment at most clinics is the hamstring.
"In athletics, in general, the hamstring tends to be the most vulnerable."
If you're riding from the home, says Macri, stretch out carefully and completely inside your home before stepping out the door.
Once stretched and seated upon the bike, don't crank it up too much until the heart rate is up, says Macri.
Note: The phone number for Belmont Physical Therapy is 330-695-9868.
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