By Konnor Lee
You’ve arrived at home, set the bike in the garage, and taken your shoes off. You want to take a shower, but there’s one thing you have to do first: stretch.
Yes, the routine we all know and love, the one we neglect the most, is a priority over showering. Even if you aren’t a serious athlete or bike strictly for fun, stretching makes the experience all the better. I’m sure everyone wakes up the day after a really hard bike trip feeling a little weak in the knees, tight in the hips, sore in the hamstrings, but stretching can take the pain away.
The whole reason why we stretch is to prevent injury and long-term pain. By stretching, we push our muscles to physically elongate further and further to build strength and endurance. A wider range of motion allows for the whole muscle to move together, not just bits and pieces straining to do a whole muscle’s work.
It’s pretty obvious that biking takes the heaviest toll on our legs. However, it also incorporates muscles all throughout the body like our core, our back, and our arms. Most people will simply reach for their toes until they feel a slight tug at the back of their legs, pull their quads, and call it a day. This is not acceptable. By neglecting nearly half your leg muscles, you are putting yourself at risk of injury or long-term pain.
After every biking trip, you should stretch your hamstrings, quads, calves, and hip flexors.
My favorite stretch that covers my hamstrings (and sometimes my calves if I’m especially tight) is a little different than most hamstring stretches in that your legs don’t have to stay straight. This can be achieved by reaching down to the ground with your hands flat on the floor, feet, shoulder width apart, and then slowly extending your legs, keeping your hands on the floor. Yes, it should hurt. If you don’t feel pain in your hamstrings and the back of your legs, you’re not doing it right. You may notice that your body will begin to shake, but continue to hold that position for twenty seconds.
Next, we stretch the quads. This can be achieved with a simple quad pull. You may find a wall or sturdy object to balance on if needed. Once you find your balancing object, lift your foot backwards and grab the front of your ankle with the same side’s hand, pulling until you feel a deep stretch from the front of the hip, down to the upper knee. You should do this for twenty seconds with each leg.
The calves are an easy stretch. Find a wall or a post that can support your weight. Position your foot at the base of the wall/post with only your heel making contact with the floor. The balls of your feet should be against the wall/post, creating a slight tug at the calves. You can increase the stretch by moving your heel closer to the wall or leaning into the wall. Do this for twenty seconds with each leg.
Finally, you should stretch your hip flexors. Your hip flexors should be located above the start of your upper leg and below the abdomen. It should be next to the hip bone. There will be one on each side. I find the easiest way to stretch this is with a simple lunge on each side, leaning forward little by little until you achieve the desired stretch. You may keep your back knee on the floor for stability if needed.
There are many other stretches that target smaller muscle groups. Remember: you know your body better than anyone. If you ever experience intense pain from stretching or any physical activity, stop immediately and rest. If you feel like you need more stretching on specific muscle groups, the internet general produces good solutions. If you wish to seek professional guidance, contact a personal trainer, yoga instructor, or a physical therapist if pain does not subside.