If you’re like us, when you haven’t been glued to the television watching the Tour de France, you’ve taken it upon yourself to channel that inner pro-cyclist and log more miles than usual on your bike. I mean how can you watch inspirational guys like Vincenzo Nibali and Richie Porte and not want to get out there and be better, right?
Keep in mind that while cycling isn’t a “impact” sport, it does also put miles on your legs and joints, and while riding, your body is in a compromised position in order to be as aerodynamic and efficient as possible. “Recovery is just as important as the ride itself,” says Andrew Kalley, NASM, an elite triathlete, Certified USA Level II Triathlon Coach, and Full Throttle Endurance coach. You have to give your body the attention it needs post-biking so that it can perform at its best.
Try these four stretches from Kalley before and after your next ride and you’ll hopefully find your legs, neck, and hips feeling looser and less sore.
1. Lunge and Reach
Step your right foot out in front of you, and bend your right knee to lunge forward, keeping the knee directly over your right foot, left leg extended behind you with knee and shin resting on the ground. Bracing yourself with your right hand on your right knee, lift your left arm straight up in the air, fingers reaching toward the ceiling. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch legs.
This stretch is primarily for your hip flexor psoas muscle. This area tends to get tight when biking a lot, so doing this will help stretch it out.
2. Pigeon Move
Come to all fours on the ground. Bring your right leg in front of your body, bend your right knee and place your entire leg on the floor. Extend your left leg straight back. Slowly, fold over your front leg as far as you can go. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch legs.
The glutes work hard pushing those pedals and Pigeon pose helps give them the stretch they need. This one can be a bit intense so take it as your own pace—bend over your leg slowly so you don’t pull anything.
3. IT Band Stretch
Lying on your back, left leg extended straight out on the ground in front of you, bend your right leg in the air and wrap a resistance band around the bottom of your right foot. Holding the band with your left hand, slowly let the right let fall across the body to the left side. Be sure that your back and shoulder blades stay as flat on the ground as possible. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch legs.
Because cycling is a repetitive motion over and over in one direction, this can cause the IT band and hips to get very sore and tight. Taking some time to stretch them out will feel great.
4. Neck Stretch
Sit straight up on a chair, bench of even the ground, back fully extended, shoulders relaxed. Take your right arm up and over your head, placing your hand on or close to your left ear. Very gently apply pressure to the neck and allow your right arm to pull right ear to your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch.
The neck holds a lot of tension, and after long periods of biking, it can get very tight and stiff. Stretching it out will keep you from cramping so you can stay in the game longer.