Cycling is a great way of exercising. It is mostly categorized as an aerobic activity because, when cycling, you get to give your blood vessels, heart and lungs a workout. This is why you find yourself taking deep breaths and experiencing an increase in the body’s temperature afterwards.
Cycling is a compound exercise, a term used to describe a workout that exercises multiple muscle groups all at the same time. It is therefore important to stretch before and after cycling. Simply put, not stretching before any form of exercise will lead to sore muscles.
To reduce the risk of injuries, you should engage in the following stretches for cyclists:
1. Hip Flexors Stretches
For most cyclists, it is common to feel some stiffness in the hip. The reason why the hips become stiff is that during peddling, the hips do not get the chance to straighten nor rotate to let the hip joint open. Another reason for the stiffness is that raising your legs to the point where they reach your hips exerts a lot of pressure on the hip flexors.
To stretch the hip flexors, you can do a low lunge, but you need to first be in a standing position. Next, take a step forward using the right leg only while sinking down into your hips and bending the left leg gently to the ground till it is entirely flat. You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors. Now repeat the same process with the left leg forward. For individuals who have sensitive knees or some kind of knee pain, it is advisable to place a cushion or blanket under it.
2. Calf Stretches
In most cases, the calves are tight due to overuse or not doing warm-up exercises before you get onto a bike. Another reason why you may experience this type of pain is because the saddle and handlebars of the bike are not aligned with your height. When cycling, the calves work hand in hand with the quadriceps and hamstrings to help your foot do the peddling.
To give your calves a stretch, first find a wall. Next, stand as you face the wall with your toes pointing forward, then place your hands against the wall. With your right or left foot take a step back, approximately half a metre, not forgetting to ensure your toes are flat and facing the wall the whole time.
For the actual stretching, lean over the leg you have placed in front while making sure the back leg is straight. Hold the position for about 20 seconds and then switch sides. These are great stretches for cyclists who want to warm up their calves before cycling.
3. Quad Stretches
The muscles mainly used when cycling are the quads and glutes. They are therefore the first to get sore right after a ride. The feeling of soreness is caused by a reduced flow of calcium to the muscles. A great way of stretching these muscles is by first going near a wall and getting into a kneeling position with your back facing the wall. These are good stretches for cyclists who want to strengthen their quads.
Take one leg and place it in front of you in such a way that the knee is directly on top of your feet. Next, bend the leg that is behind you and place it against the wall, making sure the top of your leg and shin are against the wall. Feel free to adjust the angle at which you bend your knee until you feel stable. Now, hold the position for a few seconds and then switch the legs.
4. Neck and Shoulder Stretches
The reason the neck and shoulder muscles get sore, and why you should stretch them, is because these are the muscles you use when checking for other riders and traffic behind you on the road.
Stretch this muscle by rolling your head gently using the neck a few times. Next, switch the direction your head is rolling towards. For your shoulders, simply shrug them upwards and hold that position for at least 5 seconds. Repeat both stretches several times. These are great stretches for cyclists who don’t want a stiff neck and shoulder after a long period of time.
5. Hamstring Stretches
If you have a hamstring injury, first sit down against a wall with your legs stretched out. The wall will provide support for your back. Next, as you bend your knee, place the hand on the opposite side of the bent knee on the outside of your ankle, while keeping the other around the bent knee.
The final step involves pulling your leg towards your chest as a single unit to avoid exerting pressure on the knee. If you follow these steps correctly, you will start feeling the muscles at the back of your upper leg stretch. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch sides.
6. Gluteus Stretches
Gluteus is just a fancy name for the butt muscles. These muscles often get stiff after sitting on a saddle. To stretch your gluteus, first sit down, then at an angle, place the right leg over the left, making sure the foot of the leg on top is placed right next to the outside of the knee that is still on the floor (the leg should form a triangular shape). Next, wrap your arms around the raised knee and pull yourself towards it while maintaining a straight back, repeat the same process for the other side.
Cycling is fun but not when you have muscle pain. However, if you do the stretches listed above you might just end up enjoying the health benefits of cycling minus the pain.