Still Sleeting…Keep Stretching

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Taking yoga has brought me through every single injury I’ve experienced in my risk-seeking lifestyle, right down to a sprained toe from tripping over a stupid purse in the middle of the night. Talk about extreme. I don’t even carry a purse.

All of this yoga has also helped me lecture plenty of cyclists coming to get massage. I have noticed that hip and knee strain can be relieved by making the quadriceps longer, a process which elicits some of the most lovely screams of suffering.

During this torture method, the client lies on his stomach while I bend his knee, trying to get his heel to meet his buttocks. If this is easily accomplished I then raise the knee from the table, stretching the front part of the hip, before pushing the heel back toward the glutes. While this is a difficult task to accomplish when you’re alone, there is another option.

The solitary method involves sitting on one’s heels with the knees resting on the ground and the feet pointed back. If this is difficult, first place a pillow between your butt and calves so that the knee is not entirely flexed and the hamstrings are not resting against the calves, but on the pillow between them. Once this becomes easy, remove the pillow and work toward lying back onto the floor.

Another way to stretch the hip flexors—the flat, front part of the hip closest to the groin—is to stretch one leg at a time while in a lunged position. First, be sure that the front foot of the lunge is at a 90-degree angle. If the knee leans out beyond the ankle, it is unsafe for the joint. Err on the side of the toe projecting further than the knee. The back foot should be stepped out as far as possible while the arms are raised above the head, a slight arch in the back. To increase this stretch, twist the upper body in the direction of the front leg. To get even deeper, raise the arm on the side of the extended leg, up over your head while slightly twisting toward the bent leg.

Biking also tends to illicit lower back pain. This is especially true after long stints in the saddle. Start by curling up in a ball and just rocking back and forth, your chin tucked into your chest. Next, lie on your back with one leg extended across the body. Breathe until the leg falls over without being forced. Once it has gone as far as the ligaments will allow, hold it for at least ten slow breaths. The head should be turned in the opposite direction. Even sitting in a chair with crossed legs while twisting in the opposite direction can be a great way to waste time waiting at the bank or dentist.

Blood flow to the brain can help reset the system and rejuvenate the blood supply, so even a simple “Down Dog” can be just the ticket to a decent recovery. Although I tell people to stretch while waiting in line, especially at the grocery store, I do not recommend Down Dog for this purpose as it requires one to raise their bum in the air with feet spread and hands flat on the floor about half a body’s length away.

The piriformis muscle is a deep-lying muscle in the glutes that is often quite short in the cyclist. When tight, it can clamp down onto the sciatic nerve, causing burning sensations clear down to the feet. To stretch this muscle, one can do “Pigeon Pose.” But because it’s too hard to describe, just lie on your back, cross your left ankle over your right knee, grab around the right hamstring and pull the leg toward you. This will stretch the piriformis in the left leg. Remember to switch.

Stretching after a ride is far better than stretching beforehand, when muscles are cold. Even better, is to stretch about 20 minutes into the cardio workout, but briefly, and then at length at the end.

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