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Pre-and Post-Ride Stretches

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the year

Question: “Are there any stretches I can do pre-and post-ride to help prevent injuries?”

Diane’s reply: There are two types of injuries that occur in most sports, including cycling: traumatic or chronic. In cycling, a traumatic injury most often can’t be prevented as it involves a sudden crash with another rider, a motor vehicle, or from poor road conditions. These types of injuries can take us out of commission anywhere from a few days to months depending on the severity of the accident. Chronic injuries happen slowly over time, and are a result of one or more of the following:

• Incorrect bike fit
• Wrong seat height
• Tight muscles causing injuries in the neck, knee or back.
• Wear and tear on the joints due to the repetitive nature of cycling – generally resulting in knee pain

But there’s good news. If you adopt a regimen of stretching, foam rolling and body strengthening, chronic injuries can be prevented. I have a pre-and post-ride stretching and foam-rolling routine that helps to relax sore and tight areas that if left unstretched, could lead to bigger problems.

Do this series of stretches on all rides except recovery rides, which are already designed to loosen the body and flush out the legs.

Pre-ride: Involves active movements, not static stretching

Many of us sit at computers or behind the wheel of the car before we ride, so our bodies are tight and our muscles are shortened before we even get on the bike. The following active stretches/movements will help to warm up the body and loosen the joints before hammering away on the pedals.

1. Hip swings – Stand facing a post or side of the car and loosely swing one leg back and forth across the body for 10 – 15 repetitions on each leg (loosens hips and lower back)
2. Sumo squats – Stand with your feet wide and your hands on your knees. Then squat down and then up, each time coming all the way up to a straight-leg position. (actively stretches out the hamstrings) 10 – 15 repetitions
3. Body lunges – lunge forward and back on the spot alternating right and left legs (actively warms up the hip flexors, quads and glute muscles) 15 – 20 repetitions

Post-ride: Involves static stretches – Done immediately after the ride for optimal benefit while the muscles are still warm and loose

1. Hamstrings – Stand with one foot up on a bench or car bumper and lean forward from the hips, and hold 10 – 15 seconds (can be done seated with one leg straight and the other leg bent, leaning forward from the hips)
2. Quads – Stand on one leg holding the foot of the other leg, then gently pull the leg back at the same time as you press the thigh forward. This creates a two way pull/stretch on the thighs – hold for 10 – 20 seconds
3. Calves – Stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or curb and drop the heels over the edge, holding for 10 – 15 seconds
4. IT band – Stand, holding a post or park bench with one hand. Cross the inside leg over the outside leg and then lean the body out as far as you can away from the bench/post – hold for 10 – 20 seconds and switch to the other side
5. Upper back – Sit on the ground with the knees slightly bent and grab the balls of the feet with both hands. Then drop the head down and pull back on the balls of the feet while opening up and stretching out between the shoulder blades

Foam Rolling:
Active massage technique – can be done before or after a ride.
Foam rolling improves the range of motion in the joints and gently massages tight and sore muscles. Relieving muscle soreness helps them to recover by breaking up knots and increasing the circulation of blood to the muscles and connective tissue. With better circulation and more oxygen, your muscles can recover faster. Because foam rolling helps to relax tight muscles it also helps to correct muscle imbalances by relaxing overactive and tight muscles. This allows proper movement, which strengthens weak and underactive muscles. The rolling motion of the foam roller boosts the immune system by directly stimulating the body’s lymphatic system, the system that detoxifies the body, therefore helping to keep you healthy.

Tips for foam rolling:
1. Roll each muscle group for 1 – 2 minutes and roll very slowly. When you hit a tight spot hold onto that spot for 30 – 45 seconds until you feel a release of tension.
2. Make sure you breathe. Holding your breath will not help the muscles to relax.
3. Drink plenty of water. This technique, like a regular body massage, releases lactic acid, causing muscles to dehydrate.
4. Never roll on a joint or a bone and do not roll your lower back. When rolling your upper back, be careful not to roll directly on your spine. Always roll one side of your back at a time by slightly leaning to that side. This will prevent you from aggravating the vertebrae.

Foam Roller areas:
1. Quads
Lay face down, almost in a plank position on your elbows, With the foam roller on your quads just under your hips, shift as much weight as possible onto the foam roller. Slowly roll down your legs to just above the knee. Roll back up. Try externally rotating your legs to hit the inside quad muscles, and internally rotate your legs to hit the outside quad muscles.
2. IT Band
Lie on your side with the bottom RIGHT leg placed on a foam roller between the hip and the knee. Cross your LEFT leg over and place the foot on the floor. Place as much weight as possible onto the bottom leg and roll from the hip to just above the knee and back up. Repeat on the other leg.
3. Calves
Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your RIGHT lower leg between the base of your calves and your Achilles tendon. Cross your LEFT leg over your right. Press into your hands and lift your hips off the ground to apply pressure to the roller. Slowly walk your hands towards the foam roller to roll it up your leg. Stop just below the knee and roll back down. The most sensitive spot will most likely be at the base of your calf muscles. Repeat on the other leg.
4. Hip Flexors
This can sometimes be a tricky muscle group to reach. The best way to hit it is to angle the upper part of the foam roller away from your body so that the bottom part lines up with the crease of your pelvis and hips. Roll back and forth a few inches to release the hip flexors and shift your weight slightly from side to side to hit those muscles a little differently. Repeat on the other side.

Try some of these simple effective stretches and massaging techniques during your weekly cycling routine. You’ll be amazed how good you feel the next day—ready for your next ride.

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, visit Diane’s website or contact her at

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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