Stretching Before Riding
No matter whether you ride for fun or for conditioning, a ten- to fifteen-minute stretch beforehand is not only recommended, it's required. Stretching prevents injuries such as muscle tears and overextensions by loosening muscles and increasing flexibility. It also helps your body prepare for a workout by getting an increased amount of blood flowing to your muscles in advance of when you'll actually need it. A second period of stretching should come after your ride to reinforce flexibility and help prevent muscles from tightening up and becoming sore.
Stretches that prepare you for a bike ride concentrate on the neck, upper and lower back, hips, upper legs (quadriceps and hamstrings), and lower legs (calves and ankles). Perform all stretches slowly and smoothly, without bouncy or jerky motions. Stretch to a point where the muscle begins to hurt and hold each stretch until your muscle becomes accustomed to the extension. Breathe deeply and evenly as you begin a stretch, then exhale as you release.
Slowly and smoothly rotate your head, from one shoulder (head is sideways), to your back (head faces up), to the other shoulder, to the front (head faces down). Hold each position for ten seconds. You should feel your neck muscles stretching.
Stand with legs straight and slightly apart. Keeping your left arm at your side, raise your right arm straight up over your head. Bend sideways at your waist while your extended right arm hangs over your head and points left. You should feel a stretch in your side. Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm to stretch the other side.
Hip and Lower Back Stretch
Lie flat on your back. Bring your legs up so they're bent and your knees touch your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs and hold them close to your upper body for fifteen seconds. You should feel a stretch in your lower back and hips.
Stand facing a wall in case you need extra support. Lift your lower left leg behind you, then reach back with your left hand and grab your ankle. Pull your left foot forward until your heel touches your butt, or until you feel a stretch in the quadriceps, the muscle in your upper leg above the knee. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat the stretch using your right leg and hand.
Groin and Innerthigh Stretch
Sit on the floor with your back to the wall for support. Fold your legs so the soles of your feet are together and your knees are pointed out to the sides. Pull your feet in toward the groin as far as is comfortable and gently press your thighs down so your knees approach the floor. If you can, bend forward at the waist slightly, making sure to keep your back completely straight. Hold the position for fifteen seconds. You should feel the stretch in your groin and innerthigh area.
Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch
Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front. Bend one leg so the sole of the foot butts up against the innerthigh of the other leg. Bend at the hip, over the extended leg, and reach out toward your foot. Hold for a few seconds. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring, at the back of your extended leg. Switch the positions of your legs and repeat the stretch for the other leg.
Stand straight with your feet close together. Bend forward from the hips and extend your arms down to try to touch your toes. If you cannot reach your toes, simply stretch as far as you can so that you feel a stretch but no unusual pain. Do not jerk down to try to get closer to your toes. Bend the knees slightly if you need to to take pressure off the back. Hold the position for about twenty seconds. You should feel a stretch through your back, hamstrings, and the backs of your knees.
Stand a few feet away, facing a wall, and lean forward to place your hands on the wall. With one leg step forward so your foot is flat on the ground and your knee is bent. The other leg should be fully extended and stretching back, also with the foot flat. You should feel a stretch in the calf as well as in the ankle of your back leg. Hold for fifteen seconds, then switch leg positions to stretch the other calf and ankle.