2 exercises to recover after a ride

After a hard ride, or any kind of exercise, recovery is critical to avoiding injury. Exercise, while good for you, stresses your body and causes damage to the muscles. It’s the repair of this damage that builds muscle and makes you stronger. But you can help your body do this by getting rest and performing exercises specifically designed to promote healing. 

The best way of doing that is stretching because, when your  muscles are relaxed, blood flows faster and the healing process speeds up.

Why does recovery matter for cyclists?

Cycling recovery

Doing stretches to become more flexible will mean that, over time, you’ll feel more comfortable while cycling and stretch the muscles that you use the most so you don’t stiffen up afterwards. 

The usefulness of recovery exercises goes beyond making you feel better after a ride though. The more stretching you do in general, the less likely you are to suffer injuries caused by tight muscles, particularly in the hips and pelvis area. When those muscles get stiff, the body compensates by using other muscles and that impacts the lower back and knees leading to injuries common in cyclists.

What’s the best way to recover after a ride?

Cycling Stretches

Girona-based physiotherapist Kat Stene, who treats pros including Mitchelton Scott Women's Team at her Força 13 clinic, recommends doing recovery exercises within the first half hour of finishing a ride. This half hour is key, not only because you’re less likely to injure yourself when your muscles are warm, but because you’ll get the most out of the stretches too. 

2 simple exercises to recover after a ride

If you’re only going to do two recovery exercises post-ride, these are the two that give the most bang for your buck.

Pigeon pose

Post ride recovery

For people who are less flexible, use a bench to perform this stretch. For those with greater flexibility, do the floor version from this post.

  1. Using a bench, place your hands on the bench, lean your right knee on the bench and stretch your left leg out behind you. 
  2. Lean your chest forward so the weight is on your right hip.
  3. Hold for about 30 seconds, relaxing the hip and feeling as if your bones are sinking into each other.
  4. Make sure the knee stays in contact with the surface of the bench (or floor if doing the more advanced version). It doesn’t matter if the lower leg is at right angles or in line with the body, so let it lie wherever is comfortable for you. 
  5. Change legs and repeat. One set is enough to get the benefit but you can do two if you want.

Couch stretch

Cycling stretches

An exercise so good, we’re recommending it twice! The couch stretch is a great everyday exercise for preventing injury because flexibility in the hip flexors is so important. As you’d expect from the enforced sitting position of a bike ride, you’ve just spent a few hours with these muscles bent, aka in “flexion”, so you want to give them a good stretch afterwards while they’re warm.

  1. Kneel in front of the couch with your back to it. Position your left knee as close to the couch as possible, lean the shin against it, and flex and lean the foot on the cushions. 
  2. Support yourself with your hands and step your right foot forward into a kind of lunge position, ankle below the knee and knee at right angles to the ground.
  3. This might already feel like a stretch but the aim is to press your hips forward to feel a stretch and hold for 30 seconds. You can rest your hands on your knee for stability but don’t rotate the hips. 
  4. Change legs and, again, one set is enough.
  5. You can intensify the couch stretch by squeezing the glute on the side of the leg that’s supported by the couch.

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