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How to stretch before, during, and after your ride

Staying limber helps you avoid injuries and feel better on the bike

Female Cyclist Stretching Before Tackling Tough Hill Photo by: Getty Images

Tight muscles don’t just lead to stiffness on the bike–they can also result in improper posture while cycling, favoring one side of your body, or even injury. Maintaining suppleness and flexibility is essential for a comfortable and healthy riding experience. Molly Hurford, a certified yoga instructor, cyclist, author, and podcaster at ConsummateAthlete.com, offers tips on keeping your body in top shape. Try incorporating some of these stretches before, during, and after your workout.

Before your ride

Pre-ride stretches play a crucial role in preparing for your ride.

“Think less ‘gym class warm-ups’ and more ‘dynamic stretches to shake off the sitting hunched at the desk all morning’,” Hurford says. “It doesn’t have to be complicated—and it doesn’t have to take more than a couple of minutes.”

Start with simple neck movements, like slowly looking up towards the ceiling and then dropping your chin towards your chest. Then return to the center and look over each shoulder.

“Doing this a few times before every ride can lead to big gains in terms of neck mobility,” she advises. Hurtford, a devoted yogi, also likes to incorporate the practice into her routine.

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“I like doing a few really basic sun salutations just to open up my shoulders and back: stand up nice and tall, then sweep your arms up and look up to the sky, let your back arch back just a bit as you inhale,” she advises. “Then, on your exhale, swan dive your arms down and let your torso bend down in a forward fold. Inhale it back up—and repeat three or four times. I find that it really wakes everything up!

If you’ve had a big ride the day before, or perhaps a long day at the office, she says that doing some walking lunges can help out as well. Just be sure not to do them in your cycling shoes or you may go for a flyer!

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“Leg swings are another favorite for cyclocross riders and mountain bikers who might be dismounting and remounting during their rides,” she adds.

During the ride

For those who spend a lot of time on the trainer, Hurford emphasizes the importance of stretching during your workout.

“On the trainer in particular, it’s easy to end up with stiff arms and a sore upper back. I like to tune into what my upper body is doing by doing a modified version of the cat/cow yoga stretches while on the bike,” she says. “As you’re coasting, simply let your chin drop and upper back arch as your stomach pulls in—that’s your cat—and then reverse it by letting your chin come up and your belly drop.”

You can also do this outside, she says, but with a caveat. “Don’t try this on the road if you don’t do it regularly on the trainer!”

When you’re done with training

If you have a desk job, taking a few minutes for post-ride stretches before returning to your computer is essential.

“Before you hunch back over your computer, take a couple of minutes to foam roll your hamstrings and quads—you can even check your email while you do this part! But more important, especially for desk workers, is to open up your shoulders, chest and back,” Hurford says. Lie on your foam roller with its length along your spine to open your chest and shoulders for a couple of minutes. You can also lie on your back, drop your knees to one side, and turn your head over the opposite shoulder. Slowly switch sides, resembling a windshield wiper and gently releasing tension in your spine.