One of the most common questions bike experts get is whether it is necessary to warm up before riding a bike. There is a lot of conflicting information out there because of personal accounts that may be different and because some of the expert advice will sound different based on the situation. For Philly Free Streets, we want to make sure you are fully prepared for the fun!
It all comes down to the kind of bike riding that you plan to do. If you are doing a short, intense biking session, then a warmup needs to be longer and more strenuous. This allows the body to properly stretch before being exerted. You don’t want to pull a muscle or overexert yourself.
So, if you are going to do a long bike ride, then you only need a short warmup period. You can just do a five minute warmup session if you are going to ride your bike for an hour or more. The reasoning behind that is because you will get your warmup on your bike, in most instances. The longer bike rides tend to be slower paced and drawn out, so there isn’t much of a need for a strenuous, lengthy warmup period.
Shorter biking sessions call for more rigorous and longer warmup periods. You may want to warm up for as long as you plan to be biking, or even longer in some cases. A 20-minutes begin session may need to be bookended by 20-minute warmup and cooldown sessions. This protects your muscles and helps you to avoid strains.
What kind of exercises should you be doing? You definitely want to get some stretches in. This helps with circulation and gets blood pumping to the muscles, particularly to the extremities. This means that those muscles will be ready and primed for when they are needed.
Leg swings and heel-to-toe walking are great warmup exercises that you can do anywhere. Most cyclists will simply do this while standing next to their bike. These exercises limber up your legs and send blood flowing where it needs to go. They reduce the risk of foot cramps, which are one of the most common kinds of cramps that cyclists experience. They also help with mobility and performance.
If you have exercised properly before your biking session, then your muscles should not feel stiff. They should feel primed for action and your blood should be circulating freely.
Lunges are another good exercise you can do to work your back and abdomen. You might not even realize how much strain you put into these parts of your body when you bike, so you definitely want to get them limbered up and stretched out ahead of time.
Is a workout necessary for every biking session you do? Not necessarily, but it is a great preventative measure. You help to protect yourself from a muscle soreness and other issues that you might not have problem with during the session that can come back to bite you afterwards. Who wants to feel miserable the day after their biking trip? If you don’t, then be sure to spend a little time warming up ahead of time.