Stretching our muscles is one of the most important things we can do to prepare for a cycle ride, as a failure to do so results in a much higher chance of injury. The stretches for the various parts of the body are as follows:
When cycling, our heads are required to lean over while looking forwards to assess the route. Therefore, the muscles which will be working hard are those located in our necks and shoulders. To stretch these muscles before cycling, find a chair or a place to sit down. Hold your body in position and stop it from moving while stretching. Take one hand, reach over to grab your ear, and slowly pull your head over to the opposite side, pulling until you can feel the top of your shoulder and base of your neck stretching. Hold the position while you count from 1 to 10 in your head, and then swap sides. Perform this stretch five times on each side.
The shoulder and wrist muscles need to be stretched, as they are responsible for controlling and turning the bicycle. Most cyclists also tend to tense the muscles in their hands and shoulder, which can lead to aches and pains in those areas. The best way to stretch these muscles is to bring your arm up to a 90-degree angle from your body and reach over to the opposite side, using the other hand to lock it into position. Pull the arm in towards your body for 10 seconds, at which point you should feel the muscles on the side of your shoulder stretching. Repeat five times on each side.
With regard to the wrists, these can be stretched by holding your arm out in front of you, palm facing downwards, and using the other hand to pull your hand up and towards your body, holding the position for 10 seconds. Then, bend your hand over forward and once again use the other hand to pull your hand towards your body, holding the position while you count from 1 to 10. Repeat this stretch 10 times.
Another group of muscles that require stretching are in the lower back. To stretch these muscles, we do not need to find somewhere to lie down, as they can be stretched while sitting. The way to stretch these muscles is to place both of your hands underneath your knee and lift the knee up as close as possible to your chest. Hold the position while you count from 1 to 10 and swap sides, performing the stretch a total of 5 times on each side.
A problem which many people suffer from when going out for a cycle ride is feeling aches and pains in their hips and buttocks after just a short while. This is because the muscles in the hips and buttocks have the job of carrying our body weight when we cycle. The simplest way to stretch these muscles is to sit down, lift up your leg and place it over the other leg, so that they resemble a triangle shape. Next, lean over as far as you can, so that you really feel the muscles stretching, and count from 1 to 10. Then slowly lift yourself back up and relax, repeating the exercise five times for each side. Stretching your buttocks and hips before cycling is of the utmost importance as failure to do so can mean a much higher risk of sustaining an injury.
Each time we push through the pedal stroke on a bicycle, we are using the muscle group located on the side of our hips. This group of muscles is called the “iliotibial band”. When stretching these muscles, the side we are stretching should correspond to the leg that we cross over behind our other leg. Reach over and hold onto a post or wall until you feel stretching in the muscles from the knee up to the top of the hip. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds before swapping sides.
The calf muscles work extremely hard as we pull and push through each pedal stroke. The easiest method for stretching these muscles is to stretch out the calf muscle as much as we can. First, find a post or wall to lean on. If we’re stretching our left calf, then use your right leg to step into the direction of the post, and place both hands against it. Gradually lean into the post and pay attention to how your legs are situated, so that you can feel the stretch working. The two most important points of this stretch to remember are 1) keeping the knee of the leg you are stretching straight, and b) keeping the heel of your foot on the same leg flat on the ground. Repeat this stretch 10 times on each side.
Completing all of these stretches combined shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes in total, which should be viewed as an extremely worthwhile use of time, given that the results are injury-free, fun-filled cycling. Performing these stretches will ensure that the more you cycle, the healthier you become, rather than your cycling leading to pain and injury.
M.D.,Faculty of Medicine Chulalongkorn University , King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, 2006.