Winter is here! It was 2 degrees as I cycled into SYSSM this morning, and it felt every bit as cold as that!
Although it is tempting to hit snooze on the alarm clock and skip warming-up the legs and back before jumping on the bike, it's NEVER a good idea. Here's why...
Reason #1 - Avoid acute muscle strains
Muscles sit very close to the skin, and so are strongly influenced by external factors like temperature. When muscles become cold, they shrink. Shrunken muscles are tighter, more rigid and have less blood supply than they would if they were warm - this makes them significantly more prone to acute muscle strains, tears, and spasms.
5min of resistance exercise, or 10min of cardio is enough to warm-up leg/back muscles.
Reason #2 - Avoid chronic tendon and/or fascia injury
If you skip your warm-up for a few days in a row, you might be lucky enough to escape acute muscle strains, but you're still not necessarily safe. As your muscles cool and shrink, they pull on the tendons and connective tissues around them and can cause injury - the more often you skip your warm-up, the more likely chronic tendon and fascia injuries are.
For every 2 warm-ups you miss, you should double your warm-up time. So, if you usually do 5min every morning, but you skip Monday and Tuesday - Wednesday's warm-up should be 10min. That makes up for the compounded damage done to the muscles, tendons and connective tissue.
Reason #3 - Get to your destination faster, with less risk of crashing
The real reasons that we warm-up is to prevent injury (see #1 and #2), but as an added bonus, regular morning warm-ups will make you a more efficient cyclist.
Firstly, it gives you time for you to focus on your morning ride, allowing your brain to perform 'gross motor planning', which is neurologist talk for planning and visualising your ride to work. If you have spent time doing this in the morning, you will be more focused on riding (as opposed to navigating), and more responsive to changed conditions.
Secondly, it gives your heart and lungs a head-start on the ride, allowing you to pedal harder/faster, sooner.
If you cycle to work, especially in weather like this, you should do a warm-up before you leave home. It only needs to take 5min, and it will dramatically decrease your risk of acute and chronic injury, PLUS get you to work sooner!
If you want more information on knee pain, email me directly via the contact page. If you want specific information about your own injury or if you're after treatment for an injury, contact one of my clinics directly to make an appointment. Details of those clinics can be found here.
Dr Mitch Clark