6 Stretches to Prepare For a Ride
Beginner to experienced cyclists alike know the aches and pains that arise during and after a hard ride. And aching legs are just the beginning - back pain, sore arms, and a tight neck and shoulder are frequently part of the game. But serious cyclists push through the aches in order to get up that hill and to not lose momentum on the long final stretch. If you want to see where the road can take you, a six bike rack can take you and five other riders you know farther than you ever have been before.
What are some of the most common injuries that cyclists sustain? And what are the best ways to stretch those muscles that hurt the most? Read on so you can learn how to loosen up your body so when you take your bike rack to new trails you can push harder, ride faster, and longer.
Lower Back Pain
Repeating and holding the cycling position for a long period of time can lead to stress throughout the whole spine. Leaning over toward the handles helps maintain aerodynamic performance and the force used to pedal can lead to lower back pain. This may be a common ache, but can cause serious harm in more serious cases.
Iliotibial Band (ITB or IT Band) is common in runners and cyclists. The IT band runs from the hip to the outside of your knee. The repetitive motion of bending your leg and knee while riding can cause the band to become irritated as it moves outside of the knee.
AC Joint Sprain
A part of your shoulder including the collar bone and the front of the shoulder blade, a Acromioclavicular Joint (AC) sprain is damage caused to stabilizing ligaments in this area. When cyclists are pushing up that hill or holding on tight riding down, the elbows and wrists are typically in a locked position. When a large force is applied, such as a fall, the force is put on the shoulder area.
Just like it sounds, this is when you lose feeling in your foot. This can be caused by shoes that aren’t fitted properly, shoes that are placed too far forward on the pedal, or frequent hill climbing.
What are some stretches to help prepare for a long ride and relieve sore muscles?
A common stretch for runners as well, this is a simple movement that works the muscle that is used most while cycling. In a relaxed standing position, raise your right leg and reach back with your right hand to grab your foot at the top of the ankle. Pull your foot towards your glutes and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. To increase the stretch, tighten the glute muscles. Repeat for both legs but be careful to not pull too hard or too fast.
This stretch will also reach your glute muscles as well. The consistent pedaling motion develops short hamstrings so it’s especially important to stretch slowly and carefully. There are two methods to stretch your hamstrings.
- Lay on your back on the floor, bend one knee while keeping the other flat on the ground. Grab the bended knee with your hands and pull towards your chest. Repeat for both legs.
- Standing, bend at the hips and let your arms hang loose towards the ground and slightly bend your knees. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs as the weight of your body pulls downward.
This is an important stretch for anyone spending a significant time cycling. Sit up straight on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Raise your right leg and plant the foot on the left side of your left leg. Twist your upper body towards the right and swing your left arm to the right so your elbow can rest on your right knee. Feel the stretch on the outside of your leg and hold for about 15 to 30 seconds.
Stand on your knees with your feet behind you. Raise the right leg and plant the foot flat in front of you. Raise up your left foot behind you and reach back with a hand to grab your foot and pull it towards your hip. Lean in towards your right leg and squeeze your glutes for a deeper stretch.
Neck and Shoulders
While this may not help prevent an AC joint sprain, it can help loosen up tight muscles from constantly looking behind you while riding. In a relaxed standing position, slowly and gently roll your head in a circle five to eight times and then reverse direction. To stretch the shoulders, shrug them up tight and hold for five seconds and repeat the motion several times.
Your core isn’t necessarily sore after a tough ride, but a strong core will support your legs as they pedal. The strengthen these muscles, do a session of crunches or back extensions.
Even 10 minutes of stretching before and after a ride will help prepare and loosen up your muscles for strenuous hills and pushing to ride faster. Following proper riding techniques and stretching each part of your leg thoroughly will ensure you have a much more enjoyable ride.
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