Training & Nutrition

Yoga for cyclists, part 4: the legs

Your most-used cycling muscles can really benefit from a little yoga TLC.

Yahoo! It’s the biggie! Huge muscles, huge amount of TLC required. Without exception you should be doing these stretches for at least 30 seconds a pop after a ride as a simple maintenance stretch.

But if you want to really work into the muscles you’re looking at a minute and a half each side, so set aside a good half hour, clear your mind, breathe and give your body space to relax and open.

Runner’s stretch

The runner’s stretch will help loosen up your hamstrings

Cracking stretch for the hamstring. Come to all fours and then bring your right leg forward between your hands and rest on the heel of your right foot. Your left leg should be so your hips are above your knee and there’s a 90 degree bend, shin to thigh. You can tuck your left toes or leave the foot flat, up to you.

If your hamstrings are super tight you’ll be taking a bend in your right knee (your forward leg). Flex that right foot so the toes are coming back towards your shin. Place your hands on your hips and take an inhale to allow your spine to grow long. Then exhale and fold at your hips, keeping your spine long and your chest space forward. Resist the temptation to allow that right foot to fall out to the right. Place your fingertips on the floor for balance.

Once you’re as far into that right hip as you’re going to go you can drop your head. The bend in the right knee will give your hamstrings space to open slowly. Really focus your breathing into the bellow of the hamstring. A minute and a half then switch legs.

Ardho virasana

The half hero pose is a good quad stretch.

Half hero pose. This one will depend very much on the flex of your knees. Gamy knees? Ignore this pose altogether. We’re getting into the quad here, rather than the backbend of the full virasana. So sit up long spine, legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot back towards your buttock.

The aim is to sit inside your calf muscle, so you’re not sitting on your foot, but rather rolling the flesh of your calf muscle out to the right to give your right butt cheek space to sink down to the floor. If you find this compromising the length in your spine, pop your left butt cheek on a block or a few books or even a rolled up towel or blanket – we’re aiming to keep our hips level.

For a lot of us, this is as much a stretch into the quad as we’ll need so stay here. But if you want to take if further, begin to lean back so you come down to your elbows and onto your forearms. You may even be able to get your shoulders to the floor.

What you must be mindful of though is not allowing that right knee to splay out – you want to keep your thigh bones parallel and that right knee on the ground.

If you’re lying with your shoulders on the floor but your knee is off the ground and way off to the right then you’re not really getting the full benefit of the posture. If you’re finding it quite strong on your neck and shoulders to lie on your forearms, try popping a bolster or a few pillows along your spine so you can lie on them effectively propped up. Breathe into the quad. A minute and a half, then switch sides.

Super quad stretch

Here’s one that will really stretch out those tired quads

Come to all fours. Place your hands a shoulder’s width apart, shoulders over elbows over wrists. Knees are a hip width apart, hips over knees. Find a nice neutral spine so engage your core and bring your belly gently towards your spine – don’t suck it in, just activate it.

Place your left foot between your hands, shuffle as much as you need to to get it there. That left knee is over your ankle, not in front of it. Move your weight on your right leg slightly so you’re sitting on the flesh just above your knee, rather than your knee itself.

Place the palm of your right hand flat on the ground by your left foot. Bend your right leg and bring your foot towards your butt, take your left hand behind you and catch hold of your foot. If this isn’t possible for you yet then you’ll need to pop a strap or belt around your foot and hold that to gently pull your foot towards your bum. Super strong on that quad. Think about rotating your left shoulder backwards and gazing over it.

Hold for a minute and a half which will seem like a lifetime!

Supta padangusthasana prep (with a strap)

Supta padangusthasana prep

The aim here is to be holding your big toe with your hand. For most of us this isn’t possible without massively compromising the pose, so we’re going to use a strap and then we can also work into our calves.

Lie with legs flat out in front of your, both feet flexed. Bend your right leg up and pop a strap or belt around the ball of your right foot. Hold it with both hands but keep your upper arms resting on the floor – you don’t want your arms to pop out of the shoulder sockets.

Now hold the strap and straighten your right leg. Once straight, on each exhale, use the strap to bring your foot closer to your face. Keep that right foot flexed. If your left leg is coming off the floor, bend it 90 degrees and place the sole of the foot down, close to your butt.

Rest where you feel a nice stretch in the belly of the hamstring and marinate there for a bit. If you feel like it’s opening and you’ve got more space, then exhale and bring it in a bit further. Hang out there. Use the strap to put pressure on the ball of your foot, to bring your toes towards your face – this will hit your calf muscles and is pretty strong. Breathe. At least a minute and a half each leg but hell, if it’s feeling good, hang out as long as you like.


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