08 July, 2011
How to Stretch Before Bicycle Rides
Stretching your muscles and ligaments before a bicycle ride helps you avoid cramping. Your legs are nearly constantly in motion during a bike ride. If they're not properly warmed up beforehand, you risk pulling a muscle. Stretching can also help optimize your athletic performance. Properly stretched and warmed-up muscles have the potential to deliver more power and are not exhausted as easily during rigorous activity. Before embarking on a bike ride, spend five minutes doing light cardio and dedicate at least 10 to 15 minutes to stretching.
Jog lightly for five minutes to get your blood pumping. An increased heart rate delivers more oxygen to muscles, which helps warm up the muscles and prepares them for stretching. Avoid stretching muscles that have not been warmed. You can jump rope or run in place instead of jogging.
Stretch your quadriceps by curling your right leg back. Grab the top of your foot with your right hand. Support yourself by holding onto a sturdy object with your left hand, or simply lean against a wall. Keep a slight bend in your left leg and avoid leaning forward too much. Pull on your right foot until you feel a slight stretch on the top of your right thigh. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then switch legs. Breathe normally during the stretches.
Bend down at the waist to stretch your hamstrings. Slowly roll your upper body downward and reach for your toes. Keep your legs straight and feet together. Breathe deeply throughout this stretch. If you cannot reach your toes, grab down as far down as possible on your lower legs. After about 10 seconds, deepen the stretch by slowly pulling yourself lower. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
Step over your left foot with your right foot, planting it directly next to the left foot. Slowly lower your upper body, bending at the waist. With your right hand, reach for your right toes. If you cannot reach the toes, grab hold of your lower leg as far down as possible. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Then step over your right foot with the left, and repeat. Breathe deeply throughout the stretch.
Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together so your knees are pointing out. Pull your feet in as close to your body as possible. Hold your feet together with your hands cupped over the toes, and plant your elbows into the sides of your knees. Slightly press down with your elbows to deepen the stretch. Don't bounce your knees up and down. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and breathe normally throughout.
Remain seated on the ground and stretch your legs out in front of you. Cross your left leg over your right leg and plant your left foot next to your right knee. Plant your right elbow against the outside of the left knee and twist your upper body to the left. Reach back with your left hand to prop yourself up. Press against your left knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then release and switch sides. Breathe deeply during this stretch.
Stand up and face a wall with about 10 inches between you and the wall. Place your hands against the wall at about shoulder height. Take one large step backward with your right foot. Keep your left knee bent. Lower your right heel until your entire right foot is flat on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, then switch legs. If you don't feel a stretch, step slightly farther back with both legs until you feel a stretch in your calf.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and fully extend your arms above your head. Bend forward at the waist and position your hands on top of your bike -- left hand on the bike seat and right hand on the handlebars. Keep your legs straight and lightly push down with your shoulders. You should feel a stretch in your back. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and breathe deeply.
Repeat the entire stretching cycle once more. You should be able to perform each stretch a little deeper the second time around.
Avoid any type of bouncing when stretching, and focus on holding a position. Only deepen a stretch if it is comfortable and stop immediately if the stretch becomes painful. You should also perform these stretches after a long bike ride to reduce soreness and the risk of cramping. Drink plenty of water during and after your bike ride.
Speak with your doctor before performing any stretches if you recently underwent surgery, or have muscle or joint problems.
- LUNAMARINA/iStock/Getty Images