|Photo by Gabriel Amadeus, via Flickr|
If you've ever noticed that heaviness in your thighs after a long ride—or you've ever felt them burning during one—then no doubt you know just how much these muscles work. Treat them to a nice, long and slow stretch. Start by standing up straight, then reach back with your right hand and grab your right ankle and pull the foot up towards your rear until you feel the tension. Hold for at least five deep breaths and switch sides.
Have you ever ridden behind another cyclist and seen how much their calves flex and move while they pedal? Needless to say, it's a good idea to stretch these muscles out. One great way to do this is to stand straight up with your feet hip's width distance apart and your toes pointing forward. Then step forward with your right foot and bend your knee. Keep your left toes tucked under and push back into them until you feel the pull. Hold for at least five deep breaths and then switch it up.
It's easy to forget about the hamstrings, but when these puppies are tight there are huge complications for your back and knees. To stretch them out, find a step or curb. Stand straight up and lift your right leg so your heel (toes pointing straight up) rests on the step. Then, keeping a flat back, slowly bend over at the hip until you feel the stretch. Again, hold for five deep breaths and do the other leg.
A lot of cyclists might at one point or another complain about knee or hip problems. Most of the time, these aches and pains are caused by a knotted up IT band. Sit straight up with your legs out in front of you. Then bring your right foot of your left knee, turn to face your right and add resistance by pressing your left elbow against the outside of your right knee. Gently push through your elbow until you feel the stretch. Hold for at least five breaths and switch legs.
It's ridiculously easy to transition into a glute stretch from the IT band stretch above. In the same seated position with your right foot on the outside of your left knee, just face forward pull your knee to you in a hug. But just because it's so easy doesn't mean you shouldn't do it—tight glutes can cause more work for your lower back, which can cause chronic pain now or later in life. Just be sure to hold the stretch for at least five breaths and to repeat on the other side.