Editor’s Note: This article is was originally published in Jan 2016.
Thinking about your next ride? Yeah, me too! I also am thinking about all those other self-care things I should be doing like core-work, stretching, working on muscle imbalances, sleeping more, etc. If we spend a lot of hours stuck in our favorite hunched over position on the bike or even at our desk, the rest of our body starts complaining sooner or later – sore knee, tight quads, sore neck and back. Some muscles and joints are so tight all the time that we don’t even notice it anymore; it becomes the norm and we lose mobility. It’s a balancing act to do everything you are supposed to be doing to take care of your body to support your riding habit. Personally, stretching and yoga have been key to avoiding injury and also keeping me riding strong! If I skip stretching, as I have been known to do for a month at a time when things get really busy, I pay for it. All those injuries and body aches trickle back into my joints and muscles.
The hard part about stretching or yoga is that I get overwhelmed with how much time it is going to take. However, when it comes to creating a habit, the task needs to be achievable. If there is a goal or habit I am trying to work towards, I take it in baby steps. For stretching, it’s choosing 1 or 2 stretches per day to do. Surely I can find 3-5 minutes a day to stretch and I always feel better when I am done. You can do it too! Turn on your favorite song and stretch until that song is over. Do you want to build up to an even longer duration? Stretch for the entire length of your favorite Netflix episode.
Here are some of my favorite stretches. For another list of stretches I like, click here.
1. Forward Bend with IT Band Stretch
How to: Stand up straight. Cross your right ankle in front of your left ankle so the outside edges your feet are touching. Place your hands on your hips and bend forward from your hips. Keep your legs straight with a slight bend in the knees. Reach your fingers to the floor or to an aide such as a yoga block or soup can. You could use your coffee table if you cannot reach very far down. Relax your neck and your jaw. For a more intense stretch, shift your hands and shoulders slightly to the right. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Do the same for the other side.
Where you should feel it: Hamstring and up the outside of your leg
2. Shoulder Stretch
How to: Lay on the ground, face down with your arms at 90 degrees to your body. Hinge your elbows up to 90 degrees as well so your hands are parallel with your face. Take your left hand and lift the palm but keep the fingertips on the ground. Lift your left elbow. Slowly roll onto your right hip and shoulder. Pick up your left leg, bend your knee, and cross it behind your right leg. If you can, step your left foot on the ground behind you. Otherwise, let your foot hang in the air. You will feel an intense stretch in your right shoulder and right pectoral. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Switch to the other side.
Where you should feel it: Shoulder and pectoral
3. Standing Side Bend
How to: Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart. Raise your arms over your head with your palms facing one another. Encircle your left wrist with your right fingers. Inhale and lengthen up out of your waist. Hinge at your hips to the right and try to keep your hips square. You can rest your right ear on your right arm if that is comfortable. Switch sides.
Where you should feel it: Back, lats, and side body
4. Hamstring Stretch/Half Pyramid Pose
How to: Start in a standing lunge with your right foot forward with your right ankle stacked over right knee. Bend at the hips and bring your fingers to floor while sliding your left foot back so that you are in a low lunge. From low lunge, drop your back(left) knee to the floor. Put a towel or blanket underneath your knee. Slide your right foot forward to straighten the leg as much as you can. Point your right toes upwards so that you are on your heel. Keep your elbows and neck relaxed. Flex your foot. Take 4-5 deep breaths. Switch sides.
Where you should feel it: Hamstrings