Tight muscles will slow you down, and staying flexible will help you immeasurably on the road and trail. Besides lowering your risk of injury, the additional flexibility that comes with stretching before (and after!) your ride will benefit you in terms of bike control and power output. So with that said, let’s look at five simple stretches that you should do with every ride.
The key to stretching pre-ride is to avoid static stretches (holding a pose) and focus on dynamic stretches, where you’re actually keeping your body in motion. Cold, pre-ride muscles don’t like to be over-stretched, so take it easy with the stretching until you’re warmed up. If you have the time, a quick pedal/jog before stretching is ideal. As with all stretching, you want to feel tension in your muscles, but be cognizant of any pain, as it’s a sign that you’re pulling the muscle too far and can do damage.
1. LEG SWINGS
Leg swings are easy to do, don’t require any awkward poses, and can be performed leaning against your bike or car (preferably under the shade of a Yakima SlimShady Awning). They’ll loosen up your hip flexors, allowing for easier movement and less hip pain.
Perform the stretch by standing facing the bike, and swinging your legs, one at a time, side to side. Follow by turning 90 degress and swinging each leg forward and backward. Aim to swing a little farther every time, for about 10 repetitions.
2. RUNNER’S LUNGE
Quads giving you grief? Bad posture on or off the bike? Try the runner’s lunge!
Step forward and bend your (front) knee so that it’s above your foot. Keeping your back straight, dip into the stretch until you feel tightness in the front of your hips. You can use your hands for balance if you need. Once you feel the bottom of the stretch, switch legs, and repeat 10 times per leg.
3. SHOULDER REACH/LAT REACH
Don’t forget your upper body! Keeping your shoulders and upper back loose will allow you to breathe better, and control the bike more easily, with less risk of injury.
With your arms beside your head, reach up by shrugging your shoulders. You should feel the stretch in your lats (the muscles down the side of your upper back). After 10 repetitions, drop one arm to your side, and bent that direction, reaching with your arm to feel the stretch lower down in your side. Switch sides and repeat 10 times.
The first thing you probably want to do after a really good ride is crack a beer with your friends. There’s time for that- but taking a couple of minutes first to stretch your warm muscles will help aid muscle growth and reduce the chances of cramping later. Since your muscles are warm, you can do more static stretches, and hold each stretch for a count of 30. Make sure you’ve got your SlimShady awning set up, as you’ll want to have some shade or cover for these.
1. CROSS-LEG HAMSTRING STRETCH
If you have a sore back after cycling, this stretch is your friend. Cross your legs and reach for your toes. When you feel the tension in your hamstrings, stop and hold the position. Switch legs, and repeat twice per leg.
2. RECLINING PIGEON STRETCH
This one feels amazing for your lower back, but you’ll want to ensure you have a dry place to lie down, as you’re on your back for this one.
Lie on your back, cross one leg in front of the other, ankle to knee, and pull back on your rearward leg. Hold for a count of 30, (don’t fall asleep), switch legs, and repeat 2-3 times per leg. Expect your sore back to feel considerably better pretty much immediately.
We hope you find these stretches helpful, keeping you comfortable and happy on the bike! If you do find that you’re experiencing muscle pain on the bike that stretching won’t fix, your local Live to Play Sports dealer can help you out with bike fitting advice as well.