After a hard workout, you may feel tempted to cut your cool down to just a few minutes of stretching, but it is important to remember that an adequate cool down will have lasting effects on your muscles and their ability to recover. Cooling down properly prevents muscle soreness, improves flexibility, and generally rounds out your workout.
Ideas for Perfecting the Cool Down
After you have finished exercising, turn down the resistance on your indoor bike and do some gentle spinning for around 15 minutes at a cadence of 80 RPM or more. You can utilize your bike to stretch all the muscle groups you activated in your workout. These stretches begin with the legs and work all the way up the body, ending with a full body stretch.
Lower Leg Muscles
Some of the muscles you engage the most when cycling are found in the lower legs. The muscles at the front of the shins, the tibialis anterior muscles, come into action when you pull up your toes, while those at the back of the shins, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, are used when you push down your toes.
Start by stretching the rear shin and calf muscles by standing on the pedals of your bike with the crank arm parallel to the floor. Push your heels downward as far as possible and hold the position for 30 seconds. Next, stretch your front shin muscles by sitting on the bike and pointing your toes down while pushing your ankles forward. Once again, hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Possibly the hardest worked muscles when cycling are the quadriceps, found at the front of the thighs, and the hamstrings, at the back. You can stretch your quadriceps by standing close to your bike and bending the leg nearest to the bike at the knee. Grasp your foot behind you with one hand and use your other hand for balance by holding either the saddle or the handlebars. Make sure your knee is pointing toward the floor and that you can feel the stretch in your thigh. Keep the position for 30 seconds and then release, moving to the other side of the bike to repeat with the opposite leg.
After stretching your quadriceps, move to your hamstrings. Step forward into a split stance and bend the knee of the back leg to bring your thighs parallel. Rest your hands on your bent knee and hinge from your hips, keeping your lower back straight. You can increase the stretch on your hamstring by pulling up the toes on your front foot. After 30 seconds, change stance so that your other leg is forward, and repeat.
Although it may seem like your hips are not working as hard as the muscles in your thighs, this is only because they are so strong and powerful. Given this, it is important to not neglect your hip flexors, found at the front of your hips, and your gluteus muscles, at the back and sides of the hips. For the following stretches, you may want to place a mat next to your bike.
Take an oversize step forward and bend your legs, placing your back knee on the floor. Putting your hands on your front leg for balance, move your back leg farther behind you until you feel a stretch in the rear hip. Make sure your torso and front shin remain upright. Hold the position for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. Next, lie on your back with one leg straight and the other bent. Hold the bent leg behind the knee and pull it in toward your chest. Your back should be pressed into the floor and your hips square. Change legs after 30 seconds.
Cycling can be strenuous on the lower back, especially if you are practicing in an aerodynamic position. Release the tension in your back by kneeling on your hands and knees, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees. First, curve your neck so that your head lowers, arch your back, and tilt your pelvis forward and down. Hold this position for five seconds. Then, look up, pull your belly down, and tilt your pelvis upward, holding the position for another five seconds. Repeat this process three to five times.
Full Body Stretch
You can release tension in all the muscles of the upper body with simple full body stretch. Stand in comfortable stance with feet hip-width apart. Breathe in and stretch your arms first to the sides, then up toward the ceiling. As you lower your arms, exhale. Repeat this three to five times.
After you have finished this total cool down, you should feel like all the effort has left your body and that your muscles are already beginning to recover for your next workout.