In common with all other sports, cycling requires that you get the basics right in order to enjoy it to the full. And stretching exercises come near the top of the list of fundamentals.
Why? Well, in the same way that you undertake regular maintenance checks to ensure that your bike is roadworthy, your body also requires some care and attention to ensure that it is ready for the rigours of the road.
Fail to pay attention to physical preparation and injury may well be the result, putting both you and your bike out of action for weeks, sometimes months. Make no mistake, muscle strains can happen all too easily.
The good news is that they are easy to prevent, too
Major Muscle Groups
Which areas to address? All the major muscle groups. Think about how you interact with the bike and your posture. From your head to your toes, all the major muscle groups are called upon to ensure a smooth action is achieved.
First of all, warm up the neck, shoulders and upper arms, gently stretching and completing both clockwise and anticlockwise rotations to ensure you are nicely limbered up.
Ensure that your head is balancing on the top of your neck rather that tucked in, thereby causing undue stress and tension. You’ve got to be relaxed but in control.
Your back is going to be interacting with the movement of both your arms and legs so complete a set of hip rotations to loosen up and stretch both the lower and upper back.
Now we come to the business end of cycling: the legs. The hamstrings can be stretched by standing with your feet directly in line with your shoulders and gradually bending and the hips until your fingers touch your toes.
Hold this position for about 30 seconds before steadily raising your torso back into the upright position.
For the quadriceps (in layman’s terms the large muscles at the front of the thigh), stand side on to a chair, leaning on it with your left hand, raise your right leg, take hold of the ankle in the palm of your hand and pull the leg up and under your right buttock.
Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat the process for the left leg.
Heel Flat Against the Floor
The upper calf muscle should be stretched by leaning against a wall, taking your weight on one leg and extending the other behind you with your heel flat against the floor.
Hold for 15 seconds and repeat for the other leg. For the lower calf muscle, stand nearer the wall, repeat the drill as above but slightly bend the knee. You will feel the pull on the Achilles tendon.
Be careful not to put too much strain on the muscles: you want to stretch them gently rather than pulling them. Just like an elastic band, pull too hard and you risk a rupture.
And ensure that when you have finished cycling, you warm down the muscles by repeating the exercises. This will prevent any tightness developing that may leave you feeling as stiff as a board when you attempt to get out of bed the morning after a rigorous session.