Stretching is one of those things… we all know we should be doing it, but the temptation to just hit après and “do them later” is strong, right? Flexibility and range of motion can be an easy thing to ignore, we get it. However, the mobility of your joints is an essential consideration for all athletes (including all of you leisure athletes 😉).
MTB (as epic as it is) is not a sport that supports the natural human form. Being in a cycling position for an extended period of time can cause the muscles to contract concentrically, which is a fancy way of saying that over time your muscles can shorten and tighten. This, in turn, puts you at risk of injury and can have long-term effects on posture.
Luckily, this is all avoidable by doing some of the ol’ classic stretch routines and hopefully, the threat of becoming the new Hunchback of Notre Dame inspires action when you roll to the finish line.
A few other inspiring features of stretching are the immediate effects of reduced soreness in the muscles, increased oxygen flow (which also supports muscle recovery), and our personal favorite; relaxation! When the muscles are tense and stressed your body stays in a flight response. If you give yourself time to wind down, this instead signals to your body that it’s safe to relax and all of those endorphins can start flowing.
HOW LONG SHOULD I HOLD A STRETCH?
There are many schools of thought around this, but in general the longer the stretch the greater the range of motion, with the sweet spot being 30 seconds. We suggest shifting your focus from “how long” to “how can I enjoy this”. Studies show that you’re more likely to keep something up if you’re enjoying yourself. So, chuck on your favorite playlist, give yourself as much time as you want, and take the opportunity to stop and smell the roses!
THE FOCUS AREAS
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexibility as everyone’s body is unique. Although, the areas to focus on are universal for most riders: hips, hamstrings, quads, IT bands, glutes, and lower back. In mountain biking, your arms essentially become shock absorbers, so we’ve added in a couple of wrist and shoulder stretches for good measure.
CALF AND ACHILLES
Stand on the edge of a raised object and place the ball of the foot and the heel over the edge of the step. Bend your knee and let your heel drop toward the ground. You should feel this in the calf and you can ascend the stretch by straightening out your leg.
Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other, making sure your hips are square. It can be helpful to place your hands on your hips here to ensure your body is balanced. Lean forward over the leg in front, keeping your leg and back straight. You’ll feel this in the backs of the thighs.
Kneel down on one knee, with the other leg in front on the foot. Again, make sure that your hips are square and that your spine is straight. From here, shift your hips and your weight forward. You’ll feel the stretch in your hip flexors (groin area).
Stand up straight with your feet hip-width distance apart. Reach back and grab your foot above the ankle. Keep your spine long and straight with your pelvis in a neutral position. Bend your knee and lift your ankle toward your butt. Viola!
Start standing up straight with feet hip-width distance apart. Take one leg and place it in front of the other, keeping your feet parallel. From here, start to slowly hinge at the hips and bend down, keeping your back straight. You’ll feel this stretch down the sides of your legs starting from your glutes.
Start standing up straight with feet hip-width distance apart close to a wall that you can lean on for balance. Bring a slight bend to the knees and bring one knee up and place it on top of the other knee. Keep a 90-degree bend in the elevated knee and ankle. Start to sit down and hinge forward at the hips.
Start standing up straight with feet hip-width distance apart. Bring a slight bend to the knee and hinge at the hips leaning down toward the ground. Let your head completely flop here (this is important!) and cross your arms grabbing hold of your elbows. Swap your grip halfway so that you’re getting a balanced stretch.
Standing tall with the feet hip-width distance apart. Place one arm over the front of your body keeping it parallel to the floor. Bend your other arm at the elbow and use it as leverage to gently push your arm closer toward your body, deepening the stretch.
Standing tall with the feet hip-width distance apart. Place one arm directly out in front of you keeping it parallel to the ground. Hinge at the wrist, and bring your other hand around to hold your fingers, using this as leverage to deepen the stretch.
We’ve shared these particular stretches because you can do them anytime, anywhere. They don’t require a mat or any fancy equipment. Even though post-ride stretching is a must, it never hurts to bust a few out while you’re waiting for your mates or when you’re having a picnic up at Falcon’s Nest.
We’re all about having fun, as well as looking after ourselves to ensure that we can continue having fun long into the future. Come and chat with our friendly staff at Base 334 if you have any questions. In the meantime, be sure to grab your season or day pass here for a summer of epic rides (and epic stretching!).