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Stretching & inflexibility

rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,054 Lives Here
edited June 2015 in Commuting chat
How many of you stretch after you commute and if so, how do you go about it?

Ever since I fractured my pelvis I've had a tight left hamstring. But as I get older it seems to be getting worse, to the point now where it affects my riding, manifesting in lower back pain.

Presumably as time goes on I will get more issues in other areas unless I start stretching more often.

However in the office it is not always practical.

Be keen to know what you guys do and how effective it is. After a good 10 days I can't tell the difference, but then it's years of non-stretching so that's probably why.
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  • ddraverddraver Posts: 20,364
    bike fit! (kind of seriously)

    I think you and I are getting to the age where doing Yoga/Pilates etc will actually start helping now. We can't get away with not stretching anymore

    Have you started doing anything new or suddenly increased how much you do?
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  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    I don't have any real problems with flexibility so this advice may be taken with a pinch of salt...

    The guidance that I've read is stretching is generally best done in the evening, before bed - this is when you are at your most flexible, having been active all day, and also has the benefit of giving your body a chance to repair while you're sleeping. I've not read anything to suggest that it's important to do it in the middle of the office post commute, but I might be wrong.

    I've got a friend who is an osteopath/bike fitter who gave me some free sessions because he regarded my wonky right knee while pedalling as an interesting test case - it has a bit of a mind of its own, tracing side so side motion as well as the up down motion you'd expect.

    Anyway, the conclusion was that he gave me some stretches to do, particularly on the right side, as there's a bit less flexibility there. I think they have made some difference, although it's hard to say definitively as I think my enormous sprinters muscle (aka beer gut) might be a factor.

    I must add though, I do find the stretches much harder work than I'd perhaps anticipated - I can feel the aching the next day, to the point that I've dropped to doing them every-other day because last week I just felt completely dead from doing them all week - if you aren't feeling that kind of 'benefit' from your stretches then you might be doing them wrong, or need to try some different ones.

    If you can find an osteopath it might be worth a session or two for guidance as stretching appears to be their thing.
  • neal1984neal1984 Posts: 240
    I'm the worlds worst for stretching. I once suffered with severe back pain and when my physio told me it was tight hamstrings I didn't believe him as it felt more serious. 4 weeks of stretching and I was right as rain. Equally when I had knee problems that was diagnosed as tight quads. Again stretching helps.

    So armed with this knowledge and experience I must stretch regularly right? Wrong. I have a 2 min stretch before getting on the bike and only occasionally when I get off it. When I feel my back start to ache I will force myself to stretch more often as i know it helps.

    To answer your question I have a locker room so I have space to stretch when I need to but I know I should be doing much more as it will help my cycling all round.

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  • rubertoerubertoe Posts: 3,994
    I am very interested, i havent done any proper stretches since 1985..... And i am still the right side of 40.

    Anyone use a foam roller?
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  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    Rick, do you sit all day at work?

    If so, it's very likely that it's your hip flexors that are at least part of the cause. Consider doing lunges; the important bit is to do them as well [i.e. perfect form] as you can, and for as long as you can, rather than exactly how far you can go.

    I do hamstring stretches in the shower (after making sure the door is really locked :shock:) when I arrive, and I usually do the Sun Salutation yoga set at home when I wake up.

    Those three things have done wonders for me.
    Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.
  • jzedjzed Posts: 2,926
    Despite best intentions to do stretches and foam roller after rides, I just never do. After aggravating a disc earlier this year, I started doing physio-led pilates once a week, as it turns out my back had pretty much seized up and my hamstrings were tight. Still have the odd niggle but generally I think it helps.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 22,788 Lives Here
    Anyone use a foam roller?
    Torture device. Do it until you get this running nonsense out of your head.
    I'm nearer 50 than 40, utterly inflexible in mind and body really should do stretches but don't. I really need to sign up for yoga or pilates.
  • MrSwearyMrSweary Posts: 1,699
    Started doing lunges after going for a walk near Honister and cramping up very painfully on the tops of my thighs coming down a steep hill. Also do some door frame shoulder stretches to counteract being hunched over the bars smashing nodders every day...
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,054 Lives Here
    Rick, do you sit all day at work?

    If so, it's very likely that it's your hip flexors that are at least part of the cause. Consider doing lunges; the important bit is to do them as well [i.e. perfect form] as you can, and for as long as you can, rather than exactly how far you can go.

    I do hamstring stretches in the shower (after making sure the door is really locked :shock:) when I arrive, and I usually do the Sun Salutation yoga set at home when I wake up.

    Those three things have done wonders for me.

    Yeah, for sure they're tight.

    No room for me to do lunges in the office - can do them at home.

    Once a day good enough?

    I also never know quite how deep. It's always uncomfortable stretching, though never painful, but sometimes after a long 30 secs + stretch it hamstrings can feel quite shakey.
  • PufftmwPufftmw Posts: 1,941
    Never do post or pre-ride stretches. I'm 50 and still pretty flexible. The one thing I do do is bend over, straight legged and make sure I can still put my palms flat on the floor. Do it just before I go to bed every night, girlfriend finds it amusing!
  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    Rick, do you sit all day at work?

    If so, it's very likely that it's your hip flexors that are at least part of the cause. Consider doing lunges; the important bit is to do them as well [i.e. perfect form] as you can, and for as long as you can, rather than exactly how far you can go.

    I do hamstring stretches in the shower (after making sure the door is really locked :shock:) when I arrive, and I usually do the Sun Salutation yoga set at home when I wake up.

    Those three things have done wonders for me.

    Yeah, for sure they're tight.

    No room for me to do lunges in the office - can do them at home.

    Once a day good enough?

    I also never know quite how deep. It's always uncomfortable stretching, though never painful, but sometimes after a long 30 secs + stretch it hamstrings can feel quite shakey.

    I'd go for 30 seconds on each side (if you're starting to wobble you're probably going too far at the moment), then 30 seconds trying to touch your toes. That's 90 seconds total, and I'd do that tiny set twice a day. Go for two weeks doing that, and see if your pain/flexibility improves.

    3 minutes a day. (Disclaimer: I'm not a physio, doctor, or a grown-up). There are a load of yoga-type exercises.... I think I know quite a few "hip-openers" (gnurk) and back stretches, but keep it simple and easy enough to start with.

    Make sure you do the stretches, and do them as well as you can.
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  • davmaggsdavmaggs Posts: 1,008
    I would love to have a solution to the aches and pains, but interestingly stretching has very little decent research proving that it is effective.

    People are putting lots of time and effort into something that seems right, but doesn't seem to have science behind it. People can get really argumentative about it (almost in a religious way) because they believe.

    Me, well I plan to carry on intending to do it. I'm doing it for the hope, and not due to the science.
  • rubertoerubertoe Posts: 3,994
    I would love to have a solution to the aches and pains, but interestingly stretching has very little decent research proving that it is effective.

    People are putting lots of time and effort into something that seems right, but doesn't seem to have science behind it. People can get really argumentative about it (almost in a religious way) because they believe.

    Me, well I plan to carry on intending to do it. I'm doing it for the hope, and not due to the science.


    This is very interesting, i would of thought that there would of been more research.

    Interesting article here

    https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/stretching2010UNM.html
    "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

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  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    I would love to have a solution to the aches and pains, but interestingly stretching has very little decent research proving that it is effective.

    People are putting lots of time and effort into something that seems right, but doesn't seem to have science behind it. People can get really argumentative about it (almost in a religious way) because they believe.

    Me, well I plan to carry on intending to do it. I'm doing it for the hope, and not due to the science.

    Yeah, in truth I've always wondered about that, especially as I never intuitively felt that more flexible joints would help prevent injury.
    If normal activities like standing are causing you pain, however, then surely there's a case for improving mobility. The alternative is to allow mobility to decrease unchecked. That's most of the reason I think the OP should increase his flexibility.
    Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,054 Lives Here
    I would love to have a solution to the aches and pains, but interestingly stretching has very little decent research proving that it is effective.

    People are putting lots of time and effort into something that seems right, but doesn't seem to have science behind it. People can get really argumentative about it (almost in a religious way) because they believe.

    Me, well I plan to carry on intending to do it. I'm doing it for the hope, and not due to the science.

    On a very basic experience level it makes sense. When my muscles perform less well because I'm over-stretching them during my exercise, it makes sense to have them more flexible.

    I am friendly with lots of professional dancers (yeah yeah, actual highbrow stuff) and, as you can imagine, they swear by it. They all say it improves their flexibility.
  • davmaggsdavmaggs Posts: 1,008
    You'd have to get a sports scientist on, but if I understand what I'd read on the subject you don't actually get increased flexibility. It's a bit of a folk myth, and one that sounds logical enough to be hard to shake.

    What happens if I understood the articles properly is that you probably get more of an ability to tolerate the warning signals that you are going past a comfortable point. So it seems like being more flexible.

    I suspect the idea that stretching makes things longer is what people are applying to biology when in reality the muscles are far too strong to really be changed by 2 minutes of messing about.

    Certainly stretching pre-exercise is pretty much not done now so I wonder if post exercise will get binned in due course too.
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,686
    I've broken enough bits of me now that stretching is out of the question, I just drink beer until the pains go away.

    Cheers
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  • greg66_tri_v2.0greg66_tri_v2.0 Posts: 7,172
    Stretching: read Anatomy for Runners (can't remember the author. But it is on Amazon). You can lengthen muscle by stretching but you have to hold the stretch for 3-4 minutes and repeat for a few weeks. There's a long early chapter about the physiology of muscle tissue and why short period stretching does censored all in the long term.

    Whether that would in fact cure your issue is a different matter. Have you been looked at by a Physio recently?
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  • rower63rower63 Posts: 1,991
    ...why short period stretching does fark all in the long term.
    not quite true - it tends to injure you, especially if done cold, before the work.
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  • davmaggsdavmaggs Posts: 1,008
    Stretching: read Anatomy for Runners (can't remember the author. But it is on Amazon). You can lengthen muscle by stretching but you have to hold the stretch for 3-4 minutes and repeat for a few weeks. There's a long early chapter about the physiology of muscle tissue and why short period stretching does fark all in the long term.

    Whether that would in fact cure your issue is a different matter. Have you been looked at by a Physio recently?

    That was my point. It's a myth, and one quoted in many books and many magazines. It's become folklore passed on.
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,686
    mmm beers
    Rule #5 // Harden The censored Up.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
    Rule #12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    Rule #42 // A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 4,314
    I love that the thread title is stretching and INflexibility.

    This has perfectly targeted the commuting chat demographic.
  • adam0bmx0adam0bmx0 Posts: 263
    After having severe IT band issues, resulting in having a bike fit and seeing a cycle-specific sports physio I have included stretches and strength work.

    What ultimately solved IT band issues was strengthening my hamstrings and glutes by doing barbell stiff leg dead lifts, up to around 60-70kg for 10 reps x 4 sets, and then moving onto alternating 1 leg stiff leg lifts holding onto 10kg dumbells.

    Stretching wise, my commute to work is 7 mins, so will stretch quads and hamstrings in the large loo before sitting at the desk, will repeat once I get home, then again after a shower before bed.

    After a hard ride/training session, same stetch routine as above, plus calves, and then use a 'spiked' foam roller.

    This all seems to help with muscle recovery, muscle fatigue, muscle activation and ultimately rid me of the IT band issue!
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  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,686
    Mmmmmm more beer and M&M's
    Rule #5 // Harden The censored Up.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
    Rule #12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    Rule #42 // A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
  • kiwimattkiwimatt Posts: 208
    Use foam roller and long 3-4 minutes stretches (esp quads) when pain gets too much (not regularly)
    Another plug for Tom Danielson Core Advantage http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Danielsons-Core-Advantage-Strength/dp/193403097X been mentioned on here before - don't be mislead by the title it's not about rock hard abs more a muscle imbalance injury prevention system. I haven't gone past the first few routines but it really helps
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,054 Lives Here
    Stretching: read Anatomy for Runners (can't remember the author. But it is on Amazon). You can lengthen muscle by stretching but you have to hold the stretch for 3-4 minutes and repeat for a few weeks. There's a long early chapter about the physiology of muscle tissue and why short period stretching does fark all in the long term.

    Whether that would in fact cure your issue is a different matter. Have you been looked at by a Physio recently?

    That was my point. It's a myth, and one quoted in many books and many magazines. It's become folklore passed on.

    I don't mind how it's done tbh, as long as I can improve flexibility, because the current situation is not sustainable long term.

    So if stretching doesn't work Dav, what does?
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 50,054 Lives Here
    Use foam roller and long 3-4 minutes stretches (esp quads) when pain gets too much (not regularly)
    Another plug for Tom Danielson Core Advantage http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Danielsons-Core-Advantage-Strength/dp/193403097X been mentioned on here before - don't be mislead by the title it's not about rock hard abs more a muscle imbalance injury prevention system. I haven't gone past the first few routines but it really helps

    I'm a cheapskate, so don't really fancy buying a book about a whole muscle imbalance system, when i'm pretty sure my problems are a very tight hamstring and tight hip flexors (as you would expect for a cyclist who sits in front of a desk all day).

    More interested in how to improve flexibility. I assumed that was stretching. Apparently, not - in which case, what does?
  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    A minimum level of flexibility is absolutely helped by stretching. The thing everyone is arguing about is whether stretching is a good idea for injury prevention, or a good idea to do before or after exercise.

    In your case, I recommend you stretch because I believe it will help your very poor hip flexor and hamstring flexibility. Improving them will likely improve your back. Try it for at least two weeks; what have you got to lose?
    Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.
  • WidgeyWidgey Posts: 157
    Check out PNF stretching for development - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PNF_stretching

    Having done some research into this subject you should definitely stretch - maybe not after each and every ride but at least 3 times per week. I tend to do 2 sets of stretches of each part of my leg for 30 seconds at normal stretch and 15 pushing a little bit further.

    It really does give more flexibility, I couldn't touch my toes at the start of the year, due to tight hamstrings - straight legged - and now can.

    This translates to the bike - no lower back pain - can cycle for longer with no problems occurring but the real benefit is the seat can go up slightly and handlebars down.
  • davmaggsdavmaggs Posts: 1,008

    I don't mind how it's done tbh, as long as I can improve flexibility, because the current situation is not sustainable long term.

    So if stretching doesn't work Dav, what does?


    I really wish I knew. Honestly I want to believe, and I have the roller and the books and still do some stretching. However it's not backed by research.

    From recollection (and probably mangled), some of the papers in effect seem to think that 4 minutes of a stretch vs 8 hours of other activity isn't going to do anything. One paper I recall gave the example of 7 hours in an office chair probably leading to muscle adaption to that and not to your brief stretch, therefore do other physical activity.

    The US army studied loads of recruits to try and get answers and the stretching group fared the same as the control group.

    I suspect that the reason we all belief is that there's plenty of biological terminology thrown about, the ideas fit our intuition and we all read books by people who seemed to know what they were talking about. Then, like me you get a bit broken and you try things and you lap up pseudo science as there isn't an answer.
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