I ride my bicycle nearly every day here in Chicago. Last year I averaged just over 17 miles per day for a total of 6350 miles. So far this year, I am over 7500 miles in the first week of December.
In a four season city like Chicago, I am not always able to ride at all, so I end up with some longer rides to compensate.
As every rider knows, your legs can get stiff after a while. I have found three wonderful stretches that do a super job of rejuvenating my legs. I usually do them after ten miles or so. That way the muscles are warmed up and I have good circulation.
There are pictures of each stretch, but I want to explain how I do them as that makes a difference. I do yoga for years and when I stretch, I always do the diaphragmatic breathing. That sends lots of oxygen-rich cells down to the muscles. I can always feel a flow energy into the stretched muscles after the stretch.
For the first bent-knee, long leg one, please do it as follows. The picture in this case isn’t perfect. Try to create a straight line from the bottom of your stretched out leg to the top of your head. Don’t bend your body and lay your head down as the cyclist in the photo is doing. With your bent leg, make sure that the knee is perpendicular to the ground. That way you have all straight lines and right angles. Once you are in the stretch breathe in through the nose for a count to five, hold it, then release it through your mouth for a count of five. Do this four or five times and then release the position gently. Assume the same positive only with the legs reversed. If the right leg was stretched, now it will be the bent one. Repeat the breathing.
I find the second stretch to be very satisfying and also slightly more difficult. I don’t have the balance to do it as in the photo. I always put a hand against a wall to steady myself. Reach back with your right hand and lift your foot bending at the knee. Grasp your foot as close to the toe as possible as this elongates the muscle more. Now, again, stand at a right angle to the ground, don’t lean. Holding the wall, pull up gently with your hand till you feel a good stretch. It shouldn’t hurt, but you should feel a pleasant pull. With your body straight do the same diaphragmatic breathing as before with five counts on the inhalation through the nose and then five counts on the exhalation through the mouth. Do this four or five times and then release the foot and let it gradually lower to the ground. Don’t drop it. Repeat with the other foot.
The third is a variation on the standing half bow yoga pose. My variation is simpler. Before releasing the stretch above, grasp the foot and try to straighten the leg. This will bring a very gratifying stretch to the quad muscle. Again, do the diaphragmatic breathing as before. Try to release it slowly rather than snapping it down.
After I do these, I can feel the energy surging in my legs again and find new impetus to ride.
Obviously, you can use these if you are a runner, too.
If you run, or ride a bike and have any favorite stretches that work well for you, please feel free to share them here.