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  Training tips

You're Getting Warmer
Warm Your Muscles Before Putting the Pedal Down

Your legs feel heavy and unresponsive. Your heart rate climbs rapidly and rises higher than it should, relative to the effort, or it won't climb at all. You push yourself to keep up and begin to feel like an old VW Microbus, sputtering up a mountain pass.

Eventually you back off the pace, fearing that you won't be able to continue. You slow down and start to feel better. Within a half hour you seem to catch your second wind.

So what went wrong?

Did you allow plenty of time to prepare both mentally and physically before the ride, race or training session? Did you arrive at the last minute and scurry to get started? Was it the stress from rushing? Maybe, but it's more likely that you didn't allow your body the time to adequately warm up.

Warming your muscles prior to a race, training session, or a long ride is important because of several physiological factors. To begin with, it's crucial to gradually increase the temperature of the muscles and connective tissues involved in the activity. A warmed muscle is more elastic and can quickly contract and relax. Warming up will also increase blood flow to the working muscles. This process will deliver additional oxygen to the muscles that are used when riding. It's also necessary to activate the energy systems that will be called upon to perform, such as the metabolic processes that provide fuel for the working muscles.

If your muscles are not properly warmed, they may cramp, become overstretched resulting in injury, or feel tight and heavy when you need them to be loose and lively. However, warming up should be done without fatiguing the muscles.
The warm up is also a good time to enhance your focus and mentally prepare for your event. Therefore, it is important to allow yourself plenty of time to warm up to avoid feeling rushed or stressed.

The idea is to develop a routine that is adequate for the upcoming output demands and consistent enough that you are able to eliminate it as a cause of a poor performance. If you know that your warm up was the same as you've always done in the past, but you felt sluggish or weak, then you can look at other factors that might be effecting your performance. The following are general guidelines to warm your muscles.
Since the idea is to warm the body, it's important to dress properly. In cool weather, wear tights and a jacket. If it's hot, be sure not to overheat. Regardless of the temperature, drink plenty of fluids during the entire warm-up routine to prevent dehydration.

The Routine

A warm up routine should include a general and a specific phase, followed by stretching. Time your warm up so that you complete it about five to 10 minutes before the start of your event or training session. Try warming up on a stationary trainer or on the road. If you are racing, be sure to check your start time and find out if the event is running as scheduled.