Stretching: The Secret to Better Workouts

Remember the good old days when you would have to hold a 10 second quad stretch in gym class and jump around so you wouldn't fall over? Just me?

If you’re like me (and a majority of people on the planet), you’ve probably ignored stretching for a significant amount of your life. It makes sense! We were told to stretch a little here and there as children before sports, but unless you went on to compete at a higher level your stretching experience probably ended the same time as your competitive sports career. 

Why is stretching important?

Stretching is a key part to any fitness routine. Like dessert, it’s the perfect way to cap off a great workout session. During workouts your muscles contract as they work; stretching gives your muscles a chance to lengthen. Stretching post-ride allows the individual muscle fibers to slowly lengthen, allowing those muscles to return to their full length potential. Over time, these repeated stretches will increase your flexibility and mobility, a benefit that goes far beyond the usual definition of being able to touch your toes without bending your knees.

Why should I stretch after my ride? 

Stretching is crucially important after cycling because of the repetitive spinning motion. Cyclists primarily produce force only as muscles are shortening. That is because a pedal stroke doesn’t use the complete range of motion of the hip, knee, or ankle. In addition, the natural forward-leaning cycling position encourages shortening of hip flexors and tightening of chest muscles. Cyclists who stretch to preserve greater range of motion through the hips, knees, and lower back tend to have less cycling-associated pain and are more able to maintain effective training plans.

What are the benefits of stretching?

We’ve established that stretching is an important part of a complete training program. Your muscular system isn’t the only beneficiary from post-workout stretches. Stretching also helps promote blood flow, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the tired muscles that you just worked hard on. When you stretch, you can expect less muscle soreness (DOMS), more flexibility, and an overall sense of relaxation and calmness.