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You just had a great mountain bike ride and now you’re back at the parking lot… it’s time to do yourself a favor and do some post-ride stretches! We promise that you can do these stretches while chatting with your fellow riders and holding a cold beverage, because we are realistic and know that stretching probably isn’t on the top of your mind. You don’t have to get down on the ground to have a good post-ride stretch session, so we’ll give you a few parking lot stretches for mountain bikers you can do easily in just a few minutes.
Quad stretch – Your quadriceps are one of your largest muscles and are used heavily when biking, so this is the first stretch you should do. Unless you have stellar balance, this one may be easier if you’re holding onto a car, tree, or something stable nearby. While standing upright, bend your knee and grab your foot or ankle with either hand. Pull your foot gently towards your butt, while keeping your knees in line and your hips pressed forward so you’re standing upright. You should feel this stretch in the quad that is bent. Hold this stretch for 20-40 seconds on each leg.
Glute stretch – Another large set of muscles in the body that do a lot of work while cycling are the glutes. While holding onto the same sturdy object, bend your leg in front of you, lift it up slightly, and place your ankle just above your knee, so your legs are in somewhat of a standing figure-four position. Gently sit back on the standing leg, while pushing the bent knee out towards the side. You should feel the stretch in the glute of the elevated leg. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds on each side.
Hamstring stretch – There are a bunch of different ways to do a hamstring stretch, but we like the classic forward fold. With your feet a few inches apart and your knees softly bent, hinge at the hips, bringing your hands towards your feet. If you can touch your toes, great, if not, just place your hands on your shins or however far down they go, or place your elbows just above your knees. You can try gently bending one leg slightly and then the other, alternating between them if it feels good to you. With all of these stretches, don’t push beyond your comfort zone. You should feel a nice stretch but you don’t want to be tearing your muscles. Unless you’re really flexible, your knees will be bent slightly, which is totally ok. You should feel this stretch in your hamstrings, the large muscle at the back of your upper legs. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Calf stretch – Two versions: 1.) Holding onto something, step into a lunge position with one foot forward and one foot back. With the front knee bent and the back leg relatively straight (don’t lock out your knee), work on gently bringing your back heel towards the ground. It might not touch the ground, which is totally fine, but alternate between dropping the heel towards the ground and back up again. 2.) Place your toe up onto a sturdy object and keeping your heel on the ground gently flex your weight forward until you feel a nice stretch. You should feel this stretch in calf of the foot that’s in the back. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds on each side.
Shoulder stretches – Often times when biking, our shoulders are up in our ears as it’s common to forget to relax them. After riding, we like to do some arm swings, crossing the arms in front of the body, alternating which is on top. Some shoulder rolls backwards and forwards will feel great too. Do 10-20 arm swings and 5-15 shoulder rolls in both directions.
Wrist and forearm stretches – Your wrists and forearms do a ton of work when biking so give them some love too. You’ll probably need to put down your beverage for this one but it’s worth it. Do some wrist circles in both directions by making a loose fist and rotating it clockwise and then counterclockwise. Do 5-10 circles in each direction. After that, to stretch out your forearms, extend one arm out straight (while maintaining a soft elbow) in front of you with your hand flexed. Grab your fingers and gently pull them back towards you. You should feel this stretch in the forearm. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds on each side.
Other stretches as needed – Once you go through that sequence, we like to do some side body stretches where you reach up one arm to the sky and create a c-curve away from the arm that’s up. Also, some yoga style sun salutations (without getting onto the ground, unless you want to) will make you feel like a new person. Do whatever else feels good for you!
You can go back through that sequence as many times as you like, spending more time in areas that are particularly sore. There’s no need to get down on the ground to have a good after mountain biking stretch session. You can go through this sequence when standing around and chatting with your riding buddies. More often than not, when other people see you stretching, they’ll remark about what a good idea it is and join you! Stretching after riding is a great way to keep your body feeling good and performing at its best. Your body will thank you later.