How to warm up and substantially reduce the risk of cold induced injuries.
With the recent cold weather snap and climate change looking like its going to afford us a cold start to the racing season for the future it is very important to adopt a strategy for warming up prior to racing in order to reduce the risk of injury while competing.
I’m going to out line a protocol which riders can adopt. It may not suit every rider but can be used as a base for developing ones own protocol.
- Put plenty of cloths on and start by warming up on the Turbo. This will eliminate the wind chill factor and prevent your cold systems from being shocked. Build your warm up slowly over a 15 minute period to 70% Max Heart Rate.
- Come off the turbo and perform some stretching exercises which will stretch all muscle groups used for cycling. I have suggested some below.
Common stretches and yoga poses ideal for warm up
Calf stretch into a wall
After a gentle warm-up, start the sequence with this stretch/yoga pose favoured by runners and used in numerous disciplines. Stand facing a wall with toes pointing forward. Place your hands ﬂat against the wall at shoulder height. Bring one leg behind you (around half a metre) then place the foot ﬂat on the ﬂoor (making sure your toes are still pointed straight forward).
Slowly lean forward over your front leg, but keep your back knee straight and your heel ﬂat on the ﬂoor. You should feel this stretch in the big muscle of your calf (gastrocnemius). If you then bend your back knee slightly (keeping the foot ﬂat on the ﬂoor) the stretch should be felt lower down your calf (soleus). Hold for at least 15 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
A great all-in-one that elongates and releases tension throughout the entire spinal column, opens the hips and stretches the back of the legs. If your hamstrings are particularly tight, step the feet wider apart in all variations and/or bend the knees slightly. The heels can also be placed against a wall. Begin on all fours with your hands slightly in front of the shoulders on the floor and toes tucked forwards.
On an exhalation, keeping your toes tucked under, lift your knees from the floor, straightening your legs and raising your bottom while moving onto the soles of your feet and working to press your heels into the floor. Push through the shoulders so the bottom is pushed back and the stretch can be felt through the back and hamstrings. Repeat a few times. Take at least five breaths.
Expanded leg pose (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Begin with your feet very wide apart (the wider apart the feet, the easier it will be on the hamstrings). Placing your hands on your hips, inhale deeply and then bend forward on the exhale, bringing the torso only as far down as you can while maintaining a long spine. If your hamstrings are particularly tight, the knees can be bent slightly, releasing any tension in your back.
Variation A: Place your hands on a pile of books placed below shoulder level. Work towards eventually placing your hands in between the feet. Variation B: Interlace your fingers behind your back and fold your torso over, allowing the arms to come overhead. A belt held between your hands can be used if your shoulders and arms are initially too tight to yield.
This is one of many preparatory stretches for back-bends – the ultimate cycle posture reversal. This stretch focuses on the quadriceps and hip ﬂexors and eventually the spine, as well as opening the chest and shoulder muscles. Start on all fours with the soles of your feet against a wall. Place a blanket underneath the knees if this is uncomfortable. Take your right knee off the ﬂoor and place it against the wall with your toes pointing upwards on the wall and your shin against the wall.
Slide your knee down towards the ﬂoor, making sure that the shin and knee are in contact with the wall at all times. Re-arrange the left leg so that the sole of the foot is now on the ﬂoor. The left shin and thigh should be making a 90-degree angle. Take at least ﬁve breaths. This is an intense stretch. Gradually take your hands off the ﬂoor and on an inhale, place your hands lightly on your left knee.
Camel pose (Ustrasana)
This yoga pose opens the groin, thighs and entire back, as well as stretching the muscles in the chest, the front of the shoulders and back of the neck. With the soles of your feet against the wall and your toes tucked under, sit in a kneeling position. Slowly rise up off your heels, bringing the thighs and torso upright.
Inhale and gradually move your back into an arc on the exhale until the back of your head makes contact with the wall. Bring your hands towards your heels. If you can’t reach them, you can place a pile of thick books on either side of your shins and reach those. Take at least ﬁve breaths.
Seated glute stretch and hip opener
This step in the sequence provides a deep stretch in the glutes and opens the hips. Sitting on a chair, have the sole of the right foot on the ﬂoor in line with the right knee. Place your left ankle on and just beyond the right knee. Keeping the spine as long as possible, inhale then fold at the hips on the exhale, bringing your torso over your left shin.
Take at least ﬁve breaths. As you relax into the stretch you may eventually be able to place both forearms on the legs. The right forearm rests on the inside of the left foot while the left forearm is placed at the front of the right knee (over the left foot).
Revolved belly pose (Athara Parivartanasana)
This is a good stretch for those with particularly stiff backs. It releases tension in the spinal column, hips and shoulders and relieves discomfort in the lumbar spine. Lying on your back with your knees bent, bring them into your chest. Inhale and, with the next exhalation, roll your knees to the right side and rest them on a pillow.
Stretch both arms outwards along the ﬂoor to open the space between the shoulder blades then, as the lower back gradually releases, straighten the legs out slowly, aiming to eventually have your toes touch the hand nearest them.
Supported bound angle pose (Salamba Supta Baddha Khonasana)
This yoga stretch helps alleviate most cyclists’ complaint zones. It’s a completely passive stretch and can be held for as long as you like and, best of all, it feels great. Sit on the floor directly in front of the end of a bolster (or a few folded blankets), and bring the soles of the feet together so that your legs form a diamond shape. Reclining on your elbows, lie back onto the bolster and stay like that for 5 minutes. This stretch releases tension in the diaphragm, chest and shoulders, and the groin and hips.
3. Once stretching has been complete its time for your balms and heat rubs. Get them on the legs and massage them in well concentrating on those areas where their is a tendency for injury. All athletes have different niggels so this massaging and application is individual to individual athletes. I you have a masseur/masseuse that you regularly visit maybe ask for some advise or instruction on what might be a good technique.
4. Now its time for another 10 minutes on the turbos. This is to get the systems back up to temperature and bring your heart rate up to 90% of max over the 10 minutes.
5. Finish with the turbo and get dressed for racing either put on or remove clothing as appropriate to you the individual. go out onto the road and do some short sprints start easy and building to full gas over a couple of minutes. Don’t forget neck warmers, gloves overshoes and multiple layers. It is always easy to remove a layer and throe it into the service car the it is to go looking for clothing once the race has started. If you are not comfortable changing clothing while riding your bike I suggest you find a quiet back road or industrial estate and practice taking your raincoat of gloves or overshoes on or off.
6. Head to start line and minimize amount of time hanging around before the start so as not to let the body cool down and tighten up. Note that it is important to “Hydrate when warming up and start your race eating” strategy.
Images Courtesy of Sticky Bottle & BikeRadar.