We are very happy to introduce a new addition to our staff! With this article our new fitness coach Candice makes her debut! Candice is a veteran of the North East Aids Ride and will be Riding Braking the Cycle this summer. Right now she attends Hofstra University and works as riding instructor at Thomas School of Horsemanship. She spent two Years working with the Harbor Physical Therapy group in South Baldwin. Although she is not new to our PPO community, she is new to this post and we look forward to many more articles on physical fitness from her! So without further delay, here's her premier article, "Stretching For a Fit Body!"
A summer chock full of riding is here yet, the most stretching we've done all winter is reaching for the beer at the back of the fridge. We try to get a leg over our road bike and suddenly we hear a pop. Uh Oh, should'a stretched a bit!
The benefits of stretching far outweigh the short time it takes to accomplish a decent stretch before or after setting out. So here's how to do it!
First the Calves: Stand a torso's length from your bike and holding the handle bar and seat. Step forward with one foot half way to the bike. Keep your back leg straight and bend the forward knee. Now push your hips forward and your rear heel down stretching the calf muscles. Hold this for fifteen to twenty seconds, repeat, and switch legs.
Next the Hamstrings: You bike is already adjusted to your height so all these exercises are based upon the bike supporting you. Although this one can be a "stretch" in the beginning it is doable. Toss one leg on top of your saddle, supporting it under your mid calf. Support the bike by holding the top bar with the hand on the same side, inside the elevated leg. Keep your rearmost knee bent slightly, and slowly bend forward 'til you feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this for 15-20 seconds and repeat, then switch legs. You'll also switch sides of the bike!
The next two stretches I tend to do throughout the ride and especially afterward. There is some discussion regarding the relative value of stretching -prior to and after- exercising. I tend to agree that for extended range of motion exercise modes that stretching as part of the warm up tends to be beneficial. But my own experience with biking tends to show me that the major muscle groups of my legs like stretching during and after riding. So I save the quads and back for last.
Quads: Standing there next to your really neat mount, you look really cool in your understated spandex. So this is your chance to really show off those great chiseled legs! Grab the saddle for balance, you will look really stupid falling down! Now kick your leg back and put your heel up against your butt cheek. With the opposite arm reach around and grab your toes which will point across your butt toward the off side. Now pull up on your toes and push your leg back for a really terrific feeling stretch! You and everyone around you will love the great bulge of your quads! More importantly though it feels GREAT! Hold this for 15-20 seconds and repeat as necessary for the desired effect!
Back, Neck, and Shoulders: Stand a full torso length away from your bike, about four feet or so with one hand on the steerer, and the other on the saddle. Point your toes straight at the bike. Keep your knees straight but not locked or slightly bent. Now bend down at the hip as far as you can keeping your back straight, you should feel a gentle pulling stretch across your stiff back, shoulders and arm muscles. Alternatively lift and droop your head between your shoulders and let the stiffness stretch out. Hold the back stretch for about 15 seconds. Then gently stand up by sort of swaying your hips forward and under your body, bending your knees as you do, and then slowly strand up from the resulting semi-crouch. Don't try to just unbend as you will likely cramp up or hurt your back.
Stretching is great for flexibility, but I recommend against stretching cold! You can and in all likelihood will pull something if you stretch cold! So warm up first by either a quick spin for a few blocks, or some jumping jacks, or you can do like I do and stretch afterward!
Whatever works for you is the best way for you! But you will feel better if you stretch! And you will be less likely to injure something by "pulling it!"