From Joseph K: “I've taken one of your spinning classes and at the end of each session there are a few minutes of stretching and deep breathing as part of the cool-down. However, when I'm out for a group ride we usually end by heading to a coffee shop or, depending on the time of day, a some other watering hole.The thought of stretching is far from everybody's mind. So maybe some ideas on a quick stretch or two after a group ride, even if they are in front of a Starbucks window.”
Losing range of motion in a joint, especially your knee, is no fun. I know because I've lost about 30% of my range of motion in my left leg due to the mechanical changes due to osteoarthritis. But I still have enough bend to ride a bike (and riding a bike is a large contributor to why I still have enough). Since I only have 113 degrees (and you need 110 to pedal a circle), my foot constantly gets hung up on things that I need to step over (because I can’t bend my knee enough to clear the obstacle.) but I am working hard to maintain the range of motion that I DO have with a regular regimen of stretching. I certainly don't want to lose any more range of motion and neither should you. Besides maintaining your range of motion, stretching helps to ease muscle stiffness so you'll be supple and ready for your next adventure.
Hold each stretch for a minimum slow 5 count 0r more...more is better. I like this static style stretching only after you are warmed up or done with exercising. If you are stretching before exercise, I recommend dynamic moves to warm-up your joints. When riding a bike, your dynamic warm-up can happen right on the bike - its that first 8 - 10 minutes of riding at an easy pace to get your body ready for more work later. If you are prepping for a strength training program, then you'd want to warm up the joints and muscles through movement activities.
Here are my five “go-to” stretches I complete after every ride - even if I’m standing in front of a Starbuck’s window...
These five essential stretches for cyclists help your knees (and body) stay limber. If you have a balance issue, please hold on to something! Sometimes simply touching your hands on your own body or pressing your hands together help you balance better.
HK Stretch #1: Calf
While standing, take a large step backward with one foot. With both feet pointing forward, keep your weight on your bent front leg. Bring the heel of your back leg toward the floor for a calf stretch with a straight leg. Take in a deep breath, raise your arms and eyes to the ceiling, exhale and bring your arms back to your sides. Bring your feet together and repeat on the other side.
HK Stretch #2: Hamstring
While standing, step one foot forward and. With your forward foot, leave your heel on the ground, straighten your leg, and raise your toes. Transfer your weight to your back leg with knee slightly bent and a flat back, hinge forward at your hips (keep your hands on your hips or, if you need help with balance hold onto your bike or a wall or rest your hands on your legs). Take in a deep breath and as you exhale, stretch a little more and lift your toe even higher. Step back to standing and repeat on the other side.
HK Stretch #3: Glutes
While standing, bring one knee to your chest and give it a hug. Cross your knee over your belly and feel the stretch in your glutes. Return to center, lower your leg and repeat on the other side.
HK Stretch #4: Quads
Depending on your knee range of motion, you may need help with this one.
No Assist Quad Stretch: This is only for you if you have the ability to fully flex your knee. If you have limited range of motion, use one of the assists.
While standing, bring your heel toward your bottom and grab onto your ankle. Your knees should be side by side and body erect. If you go through any gymnastics to do this or your knee is sticking out to the side, or if you are bending one way or the other, don’t! Use one of the assists, below.
Quad Stretch Assist with a Towel: Instead of grabbing your ankle as in the stretch above, hold onto a small towel wrapped around your ankle. Use proper alignment with knees side by side, hips pressed forward, standing tall.
Quad Stretch Assist with a Chair: Standing in front of a chair like you are going to sit down, raise one leg up behind you and rest your foot on the chair. You may need to bend the leg you are standing on to deepen the stretch.
HK Stretch #5: Hip Flexors
Hip flexors are the muscles responsible for lifting your thigh, and get tight with cyclists and anyone who sits for long periods of time.
Hip Flexor Assist with a Chair: Before you do this, make sure your chair is not going to slide! Face your chair, feet about 3 feet away from it. Place one foot on the chair and sink down into the groin stretch. You may need to move your foot on the floor a little farther back to feel it. Inhale and as you exhale, relax, and stretch a little deeper.
Hip Flexor on the floor:
Get into a plank position and step one foot to the outside of one of your hands. Let your hips sink down into the stretch, feeling your hips open up. Deepen this stretch by lifting the hand (by your foot) toward the ceiling while rotating your upper body to a side facing position. Look up at your hand. Return your hand to the inside of your foot, step your foot back to plank and repeat on the other side.
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