Summer is on full blast and I hope everyone is having a great time outside! Just a friendly reminder to all who enjoy exercise via cycle power: keep your muscles loose and limber using any of these stretches and look forward to a healthy, adventure-filled summer!
Anterior and posterior forearms (flexion and extension) after gripping the handles for long periods. Be sure to keep the elbow straight on the arm that you are stretching, and pull back on the fingers until you feel a gentle stretching sensation though-out the forearm. You will feel the pull on the top of the forearm when the fingers are pointed down, and a pull on the bottom of the forearm when the fingers are pointed up.
Chest stretch and shoulder retraction, from being arched and hunched while riding (no doorway around? Use a tree!). Have your legs in a secure stance (I like to be in a slight lunge position to help brace my core), and place your forearm of the side you are stretching onto the doorway. both elbow and shoulder should be at approx 90 degree angles. Lean forward until you feel a nice stretching sensation into the chest on the side you are stretching. Remember to breathe! Repeat on the opposite side. Be sure not to hold this stretch if you experience any numbness in the hand, simply adjust the angle of the arm and try again.
Neck flexion for prolonged head and neck extension. This can be done either standing against a wall or lying flat on a firm surface. Roll a small towel, or use something similar (nice rolled up clean socks will do the trick!). Place this small roll between the neck and the surface, and gently push back and hold. This has a two fold effect, it helps to stretch the back of the neck after it has been compressed during your ride, and it helps to strengthen the front of your neck. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat a few times.
Low back extension and core stretch as needed. Side bends are a great way to get to those lower back/abdominal muscles. Be sure to stand up nice and tall and then slide one hand down the leg slightly until you feel a comfortable pull in your opposite side. If you feel some compression or discomfort in your back just back out slightly from the stretch and stay there until you can comfortably deepen the stretch.
Quads, psoas and hamstrings stretch for long periods of repetitive pedaling. These big powerful muscles can lead to some major hip or low back pain, so make sure and take some time to stretch them out! Try these two stretches, making sure to be aware of how your knees, hips and low back are feeling. These shouldn’t cause any joint pain. Making sure your body is nice and supported, so that you can relax into the stretch and let those muscles get some length! I find that using a belt, or towel with the hamstring stretch is a great way to get a stretch without straining anything.
Calves stretch is always good to include as well. This one can be done as shown against a stair or a wall. Doing this one once on each leg with the leg straight, and once on each leg with the knee bent so you hit both major lower leg muscles.
Hold all stretches for 30 seconds to a couple minutes, depending on how tight you feel. While stretching you need to keep breathing! Many people force themselves into a deep stretch that is too intense, and causes them to hold their breath. This sends a signal to your brain that trouble is a foot – and causes your body to tense up. Keep the deep breath flowing and your body will relax and get a nice proper stretch. Keep hydrated, especially since this summer has been so hot!
Remember to always ride a properly adjusted bike. Take special note to have a slight bend in elbows, that your back is not too arched and your knee is slightly bent as your leg rests on the pedal at its lowest position. Always wear a helmet and reflective clothing.
Be safe out there!