Being fit and healthy is best done when you cover a lot of different elements. You want to be undertaking cardio exercise for circulatory heath, weight management and all the benefits associated with those; strong heart and clear veins and detox of natural and unnatural toxins that build up. We also want to be getting plenty of variety for mental stimulation and mental health. Time outside is great for this, especially if it’s in natural surrounds. A balanced diet low in processed sugars, artificial flavours and preservatives is essential for gut health and wellbeing, and lastly we want to be undertaking gentle exercise that relaxes, elongates or loosens the muscles and calms breathing.
If you take cycling seriously you are probably getting most of what you need already, but are you warming up and warming down effectively with those gentle exercises? A lot of people who exercise hard forget to take it slow, and that’s really going to hurt you in both the short and long term.
Short term your muscles can shorten and become tight and tense, making it easier to sustain injury and harder to recover after an intense workout. You will also probably lose performance as you aren’t getting the best reach and power.
Long term you are also more likely to experience muscles tightness and associated pain. While we might like to believe we are immortal, as our body ages you will really start to feel those stiffening legs and cricks in the spine.
We have previously covered some great warm up exercises for you and mentioned the foam roller, however, this little gem of a warm up tool is proving so effective that osteopaths, physiotherapists and sports coaches are recommending the use of foam rollers, so much so that we decided to give foam roller exercises a bit more of the spotlight.
Proven for injury prevention, increased flexibility and well as performance enhancement, foam rolling can enhance your range of motion as well as boost pre and post exercise muscle performance. Sounds good to us!
If you experience some muscle pain when you start foam roller exercises then that’s a great indication that you are long overdue for some tension relief. Continuing to exercise with the foam roller regularly will smooth and soften that pain and reduce it to nothing within a short space of time.
While it might be uncomfortable now, think of all the benefits you are giving your body through toxin and congestion relief. Be sure to drink water after your roller work to help clear your body and get you performing at your best.
See next week’s newsletter for targeted foam roller exercises.
How to use a foam roller
The most important factor in using a foam roller correctly is speed. In order to get into your muscles and connective tissue you need to move slowly. Look to create long smooth movements that ensure you are lengthening the muscle, not just ironing them flat. The slower you go the more benefits you get.
The other important factor is focusing on a number of different areas. Often we can feel that rolling or putting pressure on a painful spot is going to relive tension, however, as sports therapists will tell you, the point of pain does not always come from the source of stress, so while your left side might feel tight and pinched, that area of tension might in fact be the mirror side on the left.
This is especially true for cyclist who may have lower back pain from tension in the shoulders or knee pain from tension in the hips. Make sure you give both sides of your body equal treatment and go over a number of different muscles to help create total tension relief that will leave you feeling your very best.
What foam roller do I need?
Foam rollers are small and easy to store or travel with and you can pick one up for less than $50.
The standard diameter for foam rollers is 15 cm. After that there are quite a few variations in length and density as well as some choices for texture.
What roller you need depends on where you expect to use it. If you want to take your roller to events to warm up before a serious ride then go for a smaller size, like the 30cm length for flexible travel options. If you will only be using your roller at home then the large 90cm size gives you more versatility to use along the length of your back if you want to add in additional movements.
For those who are especially tense and new to rolling go with a low-density roller which will be easier on your muscles and give you time to step into it gradually. Most people find the medium-density option comfortable and easy to use.
Knobbly versions give you the extra benefit of trigger point massage. While it’s not at all necessary you might like the little bonus, although it will probably cost you a bit extra. Textured massage rollers are usually more durable.
For a ten-minute foam roller exercise routine specific to cycling see next weeks post! That gives you time to get your foam roller ready!