Kate Kendall, director and co-founder of Flow Athletic, runs us through her favourite stretches for cyclists
Yoga is not about pushing yourself into a shape you think you should be in to get a stretch. It’s about listening to your body and using your breath to deeply release fascia and ease muscle tension
Words: Kate Kendall
You all know you need to improve your flexibility for faster recovery and fewer injuries, yet stretching is rarely the first thing you think of when climbing off your bike. All it takes are a few post-ride stretches to give your recovery a kickstart and greater mobility.
Yoga has long been regarded as an ‘herbal’ pursuit but that excuse is getting old. When you look at the physical and psychological benefits, Yoga is not only a valuable form of skillful movement and body awareness – a trait all serious athletes have in common – but mental training.
For the absolute novice, let me make one thing clear; Yoga is not about pushing yourself into a shape you think you should be in to get a stretch. It’s about listening to your body and using your breath to deeply release fascia and ease muscle tension.
The following are five key stretches, valuable to any cyclist. Typical in their approach, they’re effective for targeting tight spots and will lay a fairly solid post-ride stretch practice.
My best tip offered is once your breath has slowed down after a ride, begin to breathe in and out of the nose. Focus on the way the inhalation highlights the areas you feel most tight in a stretch and how the exhalation eases and releases. With time you’ll learn to lengthen out the exhalation and release longer.
In the article Joy of Flex, Cyclist provides five ‘must-do’ stretches. The five stretches suggested are the downward dog, camel pose, pigeon hip stretch, standing calf stretch and the bow pose.
These are all excellent stretches that will over time improve your flexibility. However, here are three of my personal favourites that when combined with those suggested will help anyone who ride a bike become a stronger, more efficient and more effective cyclist. Please note, as with any physical activities, you must warm up thoroughly prior to exercise.
Great for: stretching the hip flexors, chest and shoulders; counteracting all that time spent on a bike. How to: From downward facing dog step your right foot forward between the hands. Gently drop your left knee to the ground. First take your hands to the hips whilst you get your balance. Once steady, take your hands up the sky to lengthen the side waist, keeping the shoulder blades relaxed down the back, and finally interlace the hands behind the head. Gently squeeze the left glute to lengthen the left hip flexor. (Eight deep breaths)
Great for: opening hips and glutes.
How to: From the Psoas Lunge, turn your right foot out a little but make sure the knee and toes are facing the same direction. Take your right hand to the inside of your right foot. Lift your chest but press the hips gently to the floor. (Eight deep breaths)
Lizard Lunge with Quad Stretch
Great for: stretching hips, shoulders and glutes plus twisting spine.
How to: From lizard lunge, bend the left knee and reach the right arm out to the right and behind you to grab the left foot or ankle without force. Gently draw the left foot closer and tuck the tailbone under whilst you twist from the base of the spine to the right. With each inhalation kick the left foot gently away, with each exhalation, gently draw it in towards you. (Eight deep breaths)
Once completed, step back to the original set, beginning with downward facing dog for a few breaths to stretch the calves then repeat all of the above on the left side.
Simply add these moves to your stretch routine and you will be well on your way to greater flexibility and overall power increases in your ride.
Kate Kendall is Director of Yoga and co-founder of Flow Athletic. Kate specializes in working with athletes, and is the resident yogi expert for Body & Soul Magazine and a regular contributor to Cyclist and 220 Triathlon.