Tis the season for charity rides, metric centuries, and long, sunny days in the saddle. Lengthy bike tours leaving you sore? Relieve lactic acid build-up and tired muscles, and feel better the next time you get on the bike with these yoga-inspired stretches.
Beginning on your hands and knees, bring your right knee forward to your right wrist and your right ankle to your left wrist. Flex your ankle and keeping your shin as parallel with the front of your mat as possible. Straighten your left leg towards the back of the room with the top of your foot resting on the floor. You should feel some serious sensation in your right hip- if not, stick a rolled-up towel beneath your right hip to get some leverage. Repeat on the left side.
Shoulders are a part of the body often neglected by cyclists, as most of our focus and attention is given to where most of our power comes from: our legs. But many long hours in the saddle can lead to shoulder, neck and back pain. Sitting however you are comfortable, interlace your hands behind your back and bend your elbows to pull your hands up against your right hip. Your right elbow will pop out, so hug it back in towards the other one and feel the stretch in your chest and deltoid. Tip your head gently to the right (towards your hands) to get a better stretch in your neck and trapezius (upper shoulder muscles).
Super quad stretch
Back yourself up against a wall or a couch, and scoot your right knee as close to the wall as possible, with the top of your right foot against the wall. Place your left foot as far from your body as comfortable in a lunging position and use your left leg as leverage to push your hips back towards the wall for a deep quad/hip flexor stretch. Repeat on other side.
Hamstring/IT band stretch
Nothing feels better than releasing a day’s worth of riding from your hamstrings, and my favorite way to do it is by using a yoga strap (a belt or scarf do the trick as well). Start by laying on your back with one of your legs perpendicular to the floor. Flex both your feet. Using the strap on the ball (not the arch!) of your foot, use your arms to really pull down on the strap so your heel is higher than your toes. Do a few small bend-and-straightens with your knee to loosen the hamstring. To get into your IT band, straighten your leg and bring it just past your midline, using the strap to work your foot towards your shoulder (watch your hip here-it likes to creep up, so tuck it back in and keep both hips level). This will be a little uncomfortable, but is stretching your IT band is essential and can be great for preventing/alleviating knee pain.
It’s best to do these shortly after the ride, while your muscles are still warm. With a little practice and a lot of patience, these stretches will greatly benefit the way you feel during that century ride- and how you feel at the barbeque after!
There are so many other stretches and poses that can benefit your riding! Its necessary to figure out what your body needs most after a ride by experiementing and assessing what feels best for you. There are free podcasts available on iTunes called from YogaDownload.com, including a few called Yoga for Cyclists.