Spring is in the air! What a refreshing time it is for Minnesotans to get some much needed fresh air and vitamin D. Spring is also a great season to resume outdoor physical activities that you may have missed over the winter months. I enjoy talking with my patients about what makes them excited this time of year: getting back into gardening, going to the park with their grandkids, paddleboarding with friends, jumping through puddles with their toddler, or going for a bike ride!
For me, I love getting on my bike and enjoying various local trails. Biking is an activity I remember doing with my family as a kid and now enjoy with my family and friends. The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail is one of my favorites, a 15-mile trail from Eden Prairie to Carver Park Reserve that passes right behind Wellspring. Did you know Google Maps can help you find a bicycle-friendly route? This is helpful if you are traveling with bikes to a new or unfamiliar area, so you can map out your route to avoid freeways and use designated trails when possible. There are SO many great trails around the Twin Cities. I encourage you to put on your helmet and explore!
Not only is biking a fun activity, it is great for your health.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF BIKING IN EDEN PRAIRIE
- Heart Health– Regular biking can improve your level of cardiovascular fitness. A systematic review on the health benefits of cycling found improved cardiovascular fitness and decreased risk factors for heart disease due to commuting cycling. Going on a 30 minute bike ride five times per week meets the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity for adults.
- Joint Mobility- Biking promotes gentle range of motion for the knees, hips, and ankles without putting pressure on your joints which is great for joint lubrication and improved flexibility. This is one of the reasons stationary biking is often a go-to activity during rehabilitation from a knee or hip surgery.
- Lower Body Strengthening– Quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, oh my! Biking can be a great cross-training activity for runners and walkers. Consistency will build lower body strength and endurance for your daily activities.
- Decreased Stress– Any level of increased physical activity can stimulate endorphins which can help with stress management. See last month’s blog on stress!
To get the most out of your biking commute or leisure trail ride, do your best to focus on posture and stretching.
Optimal posture during biking includes setting up your knee alignment, shoulder posture, and hand position. Keeping the following tips in mind can make your ride more comfortable.
- Knee Alignment– Making sure your bike is properly fit is step one. Adjusting the seat height is usually all you need to do to improve your knee alignment. When your foot is in the 6:00 position, there should be a 20-30 degree bend in your knee. When your pedal comes up to the 12:00 position, your knee should bend to 90 degrees. Throughout the pedal stroke, your knee should not fully straighten.
- Shoulder Posture– Avoid shrugging your shoulders. Once positioning your hands on the handlebars, slide your shoulder blades down along your upper back. Remind yourself of this frequently as fatigue can change your posture throughout the ride.
- Hand Position- Vary your hand position. Loosen your grip occasionally in order to avoid compression of nerves in the hand which can lead to numbness after prolonged pressure. Also, avoid locking out your elbows. Keeping a soft bend in the elbows can alleviate unnecessary stress through your wrists.
Now you made it to your destination! All the endorphins are pumping and your body needs something to do as you cool down and let your heart rate return to baseline. After finishing your bike ride, stretching is a great way to take care of your muscles while they are warm and flexible. Spend 10 minutes on the following stretches to maintain great flexibility.
5 STRETCHES TO DO AFTER YOUR RIDE
- Hip Flexor Stretch – While biking, your hips and trunk are flexed forward, so this is a great stretch to extend through an area that has been tightened for a prolonged period.
2. Hamstring Stretch – Biking activates and strengthens your hamstrings, so this stretch will reduce tightness on the back of the thigh.
3. Piriformis Stretch – Since biking is a straight plane motion, your hips can benefit from a rotational stretch to decrease tightness.
4. Pectoral Stretch – This stretch opens through the chest, which feels great after having your arms forward on the handle bars.
5. Upper Trapezius Stretch – This stretch feels great after a bike ride or a day of deskwork where a “shoulder shrug” can be the default posture upon neck and upper back fatigue.
Whether you are considering biking as an option for active commuting, going on a short ride with your kids, taking time to yourself on the trails, or building up your endurance for a race, these benefits are waiting for you!
If pain or injury is interfering with your ability to do the activities you enjoy, stop by for a FREE pain and injury screening at Wellspring.
By: Kelli Rorem DPT, ATC