Downhillers should spend some time in the bullpen.
OK, so I’ve been looking for a tacky headline to grab your attention so hopefully it worked, now stop sabotaging your riding.
You show up at the mountain or local trails ready to rip some runs. Your kit is clean, bikes polished and shiny, and you’re anxious as hell to start riding. Eager to ride you grab your bike and get to the top as quick as possible. Helmets buckled in and you’re off. However your riding experience isn’t quite matching how you thought you would feel. Yes, you’re having fun but you feel out of your element a little. You shrug it off to it being your first run and that the day will get better.
Now, what if I told you that this entire experience could start better from the beginning? Even though I’ll give you the knowledge to change this, I’m guessing that most of you won’t follow it. You will feel that you will look silly, you’ll forget, or you’ll just continue to rush around not giving yourself enough time. Also, if you think that the top pros aren’t doing this you’re just kidding yourself. You may not see them do it, but trust me, they are. So how does all of this relate back to the topic of why downhillers should spend some time in the bullpen? Because I have yet to see anyone actually warming up before they quick rush off to the chairlift. Now, I’m not saying that none of you do, I’m just saying I haven’t seen it.
So why is warming up important for downhill in particular? It’s because our bodies are instantly thrown into a state of demanding muscles to work. Not only that, but riding properly and safely requires our bodies to move through a large range of motion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ridden with someone who pulls a muscle on their first run, or within the first few minutes of a ride. The more “body English” we can use the faster we can go, because we’re increasing our ability to control the bike and respond to terrain changes by absorption rather than deflection. Without warming up before riding you are putting your body through torture on a first run. You’re asking your body and legs especially to do even more work than they need to. There is such much energy being wasted just by stabilization that you give up being able to relax and settle into the ride. So by now I’ve hopefully made my point about why warming up is important. If I haven’t it simple, you want to enjoy the day without getting hurt, and to ride as fast as possible within your actual limits without your body (not mind) holding you back.
Here’s how I’m going to help. I’m going to give you a few simple dynamic stretches to do before you ride. What’s even better is that I’m disguising them so you won’t really look like your stretching. Also, just so we’re clear on something. Muscles DO NOT actually stretch, there are not made of rubber. What they do is relax, allowing a greater range of motion which means you don’t pull a hammy on your first run and then pop ibuprofen to take the edge off. Why am I disguising stretches? Because I believe that if people are seen actually stretching they may feel silly, or that others will consider them too serious, or tease them, rather than realize they are just being smart and protecting their bodies. Of course if people are seen doing these moves, then (and I hope they are) then maybe we change the mindset.
I will also by writing another follow up article about how I warm up on the chairlift. Which is what I try and always do.