You just had a fabulous ride, the sun shone gently as you skimmed along the road. Perhaps you went 10 miles, maybe 20, even 30 or more. You feel great, you finished a bottle or two of water, and now you’re ready to relax and refuel with a great meal. Wait! You forgot something. If you don’t want to wake up stiff and sore tomorrow, with legs so tight it’s hard to walk, you need to take a few minutes now, while your muscles are still warm and loose, to stretch.
Cycling exercises the same muscles, over and over, in a limited range of motion. As a result, your muscles can become short and tight. A few simple stretches before and after cycling can help minimize this problem. Additionally, stretching helps to prepare your muscles for activities, increases your range of motion, improves circulation, and helps to develop coordination and balance. Most importantly, it makes you feel great!
There are a few basic principles to follow when completing the following stretches:
• Stretch before and after cycling
• Only stretch until you feel a mild tension
• Never stretch to the point of pain!
• Hold each stretch for 20 – 30 seconds
• Move gently and never bounce (bouncing can cause a muscle to tear)
Hamstring Stretch: A simple forward bend gives the muscles on the backs of your thighs a good stretch. The key is to remember to bend forward from the hips first and not by rounding your back. One way to help this is to put your hands on your hips as you begin the bend. Keep your knees slightly bent and stretch forward and down. Once your upper body is in line with the ground, reach for your toes.
Quadriceps Stretch: The large muscles on the fronts of your thighs get an especially good workout when you cycle. The standing quad stretch does a good job of loosening tightness, and is also great for improving your balance. To do this stretch, stand on one leg (hold onto something if you need help with balance), bend your knee and bring your foot toward your buttock. Grasp your ankle with your hand, stand up straight and feel the pull along the front of your thigh and hip. Be sure to switch sides so you stretch both legs.
Standing Calf Stretch: Making sure you stretch your calf muscles well not only keeps your legs and ankles limber, but can also help prevent or relieve plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the membranes along the soles of your feet. To do this stretch, stand an arm’s length from a wall and lean forward and place both hands on the wall shoulder width apart. Extend one leg behind you with the heel on the ground and place the other foot a little closer to the wall. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in your back leg. Be sure to switch sides so you stretch both legs.
Simple Shoulder Stretch: When we’re riding we spend a lot of time hunched over our handlebars, so don’t forget to stretch your shoulders to open up the chest and relieve tightness. Stand up straight and reach your right arm straight over head. Bend your elbow so that your right hand reaches for your right shoulder while the elbow keeps pointing to the sky. Reach over your head with your left hand to grasp your right elbow and pull it gently toward your ear. Continue to slide your right palm down your shoulder, but don’t strain too hard. Repeat the stretch with the other arm.
Another Shoulder Stretch: Stand straight and relaxed. Grasp your hands behind your back and gently raise your hands up while pulling your shoulders back.
These stretches are just a few of the many you can do to keep your muscles limber and loose. Be sure to add them to your cycling routine every time you ride to minimize the risk of injury and keep your body working and feeling its best.
Have fun and ride safe!