If you can see Mt. Baker, you are part of The Experience

Hand stretches for biking

Picture 1. Luca Williams photo

By Luca Williams

"The number one rule in mountain biking is ‘Get bloody!’” My two buddies advised me as we pulled our bikes out of their truck. It was my first time mountain biking and I should have known better to ever ask these two for guidance.

Their idea of fun back in seventh grade, when I had first moved to the U.S. from Panama, was to chase me with imaginary spears and call me, “Big fat elephant hunter.” Because they were fun and adventurous, I eventually forgave them. That didn’t mean I needed to listen to their hair-brained schemes. To top it off, neither of them blinked at my shiny blue Schwinn that was in no way a mountain bike. Instead, they cheered at my bike and every mistake I made on it, but somehow their unconventional method of teaching worked.

Picture 2. Luca Williams photo

The speed, the carving and the wind in my face had me hooked. It was thrilling, so thrilling that I didn’t notice that I needed to put on the brakes to make it around the next corner. Unintentionally, I followed my buddies’ rule; rode right into a tree and gashed my entire thigh. It was success in their eyes.

Proud of my blood, I showed my foot-long bruise to anyone who cared to look at it. Back then I rarely thought about the long-term consequences of hurting myself. It took many injuries until I realized that I would only be given one body, so I must take care of it. Carving on my mountain bike is still as thrilling as it ever was, but now my goal is to never get bloody. My other goal is to keep my hands safe from any kind of injury or stiffness.

Except for being cautious while I ride, there’s not much I can do to prevent falls. What I can do is make sure that I take care of my hands and forearms from the repetitive work they endure. Every day our hands push, pull, grasp, twist and most of us never give them a single thought until they begin to hurt. If we can stretch them and unwind them most of this pain is avoidable. My routine for maintaining the flexibility of my hands and forearms is simple and it helps to deal with most lower arm pain due to braking, gripping tools and typing.

Picture 3. Luca Williams photo

First, as I mentioned in a previous article, I stretch my whole arm by placing my hand on a wall and turning away from the wall (See picture 1).

Second, I turn my hand so the palm is facing upward, then I use the other hand to stretch the fingers downward (See picture 2). Be gentle with yourself and move your fingers right and left to stretch different areas of your forearm.

Finally, my favorite stretch or movement is to twist each of my fingers (See picture 3). Those of you who do mechanics or grip a great deal for work or fun, will find how incredible it feels to twist each finger.

We can’t avoid all injuries, but we can do our best to take care of the one body that we’ve been given. These days, I’ve exchanged the teenage “Get bloody” mantra with a different one from one of my mountain bike girl friends, “Ride to ride again.” x

Luca Williams is a certified rolfer in Glacier. She helps snowboarders, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts get aligned and out of pain. Website: lucasrolfing.com Blog: movingwithgravity.wordpress.com