Perhaps cycling is one of those activities that helps you relieve the stress of your daily life. But cycling also puts demands on your body to perform. That performance is maximized when your body and all of its parts are functioning as they should – muscles should be able to lengthen just as much as they contract and joints should be capable of going through their full range of motion.
Sometimes we experience disruptions in our kinetic chain. A cyclist may notice tweaks and twinges, muscular aches or discomfort. Sometimes this can be addressed before it ever becomes truly problematic. A good chiropractor can determine whether you need more aggressive treatment but one form of therapy is myofascial release.
Of the many benefits of myofascial release, some include release of tension, relaxing of muscle tissue and reduction of inflammation. With myofascial release, athletes can experience greater flexibility, movement, function and performance while reducing injuries. It can be part of a well-balanced fitness routine, helping an athlete maintain muscular length, increase range of motion, relieve joint stress and decrease muscular soreness.
Self myofascial release, or SMFR, is a form of soft tissue manipulation that can be performed on oneself. Our resident fitness guru, Joy Sherrick, has tips for you on how to incorporate SMFR into your cycling fitness routine:
To perform SMFR at home, you’ll need a foam roller. I recommend the Trigger Point Performance Therapy’s The Grid 2.0 in 26″ which can be ordered at Higher Gear. When using the foam roller, you can adjust how much pressure you apply by making simple adjustments to your position, changing how much of your body weight is being applied. Do not foam roll over joints, only the spaces in between joints.
Begin moving your body weight over the foam roller very slowly. You will eventually come to an adhesion (a knot) or experience a tightness. This should be a discomfort, not a pain; pain should be addressed by a doctor. At the point of discomfort, stop your movement, keeping the pressure on this spot and holding it there. You’ll want to hold this position for 30-45 seconds or until you feel a release before continuing movement further, repeating this pattern as you encounter more adhesions or tightness.
Cyclists, of course, put a lot of strain on their lower bodies – so we’ll begin there. As we know, cyclists also engage their core muscles and put stress on their upper body so we will also address those areas.
The IT Band is a band of connective tissue that runs down the side of your leg, from your hip to your knee. It causes problems in so many athletes because of the number of muscles that attach into this band and because of the critical joints it effects. Foam rolling here is often surprisingly uncomfortable – so be prepared. Begin just below your hip and gradually work your way down towards your knee. Go slowly and spend time holding pressure at the points of greatest discomfort. When you’re ready to apply more pressure, you can use the weight of your opposite leg but don’t try this too soon.
Lie face down with the foam roller just below your pelvis. Use your upper body to slowly work the foam roller towards your knee. Because your quadriceps are made up of several (four) different muscles, try rotating slightly on the foam roller to hit the different muscles. You might find that the muscles toward the inside or outside of your thigh are tighter than those directly in front. For each, begin near the hip and work your way down.
Cyclists expect a lot of their backsides. Here’s a way to provide a little relief. Sit on the foam roller so that your weight is focused to one side, just under the pelvic bone. To maximize the stretch, cross the ankle of the side your working on over your opposite knee. This should really help you get in where it can really be tight. Hold the position for 45 seconds or as long as you can.
In the same position as the glute stretch above, this time, cross the knee (versus ankle) of the side you’re working on over your opposite knee.
Flipping over to work the back of your legs, begin just below your pelvis, using your upper body to work the foam roller toward your knees. Like the quadruceps, the hamstrings are also made up of several muscles. So here, too, try slight adjustments, rotating to hit the muscles more toward the inside or outside of your legs – beginning at the top of your leg and working your way down.
Now start with the foam roller just below your knee. Slowly work your way down towards your ankle. This is another one to try from several angles, rotating your leg to address the inside and outside.
Now let’s work our way up the body, addressing tightness that can occur in cyclists’ backs – due to the hours spent in the saddle (or at a computer desk or in a car).
Lie back so that the foam roller is just above your hip bones. Use your legs to pull the foam roller up your back. If one side is notably tighter, rotate your upper body slightly to work that side.
Sitting in an aero position for any time can strain the muscles between your shoulder blades. Begin as above with the foam roller under your back but with your arms crossed over your chest. Use your legs to pull the foam roller up your back to target the area between your shoulder blades. Stop before you reach your neck.
Consider adding these exercises into your pre-cycling routine as well as before your strength training. They are a great way to warm up your body and prepare it for exercise. You an also do these post exercise and on your recovery days when you’re more focused on stretching and relaxing.
As with all physical activity, a degree of common sense is required. This information is not meant to treat or diagnose a problem. If you are experiencing pain, please see your doctor or chiropractor. It’s always recommended to talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Because proper form is important as is understanding how to best implement strength training, those with training in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology should be consulted.
Special thanks to Precision Multisport for use of their beautiful training facility.
Want to add SMFR (foam rolling) to your routine? We don’t keep them in stock in the shop, but Higher Gear can add a Trigger Point Performance Therapy’s The Grid 2.0 for you to our weekly order. It comes in a 26″, 13″ and a new 5″ travel size! Give us a call to request one.
Want more tips for how to keep your body fit for cycling? Check out these links:
- Yoga poses for cyclists’ back pain.
- Core exercises for cyclists.
- Strength training for cyclists.
- Take a break from cycling with these ideas for winter cross training.
- Staying healthy on and off the bike.