This video accompanying this stretching routine shows examples of various stretches that are beneficial to an athlete or person in training. This is particularly useful for those who regularly engage in intense physical activities such as running and cycling.
These stretches are to be performed intuitively. This means that the length of time on each stretch depends on how your body responds to the stretch. If certain areas feel the stretch strongly, allow yourself to stay longer in the pose. When you do not feel the stretch anymore you can move on. The stretches can be performed in any order and as many times as you like.
The benefits are mainly an increase in range of motion for common exercises, relaxation, and to correct any imbalances in muscle movement. Stretches will not help prevent cramping and may not help to relieve delayed muscle soreness, but flexibility training is a key component to help you progress in training and to allow yourself to become more in tune with your body.
To start, you’ll want to place your yoga mat near a wall.
Hip flexor stretch
Kneel down onto your mat facing away from the wall and step one foot forward. Make sure your knee is staying above your ankle. Your other knee is on the floor right under the hip and your back foot is flat out behind you. Rise up and place your hands on your thigh and press down firmly. This engages your abdominals, making them contract to further stretch the hip flexors.
Remain in the first position and grab your ankle of the leg that is behind you. Flex the heel and bring the foot slowly towards the back of the leg. The stretch should be felt in the front thigh of the back leg. The hamstrings may contract as a result. Perform the stretch gradually and relax the leg muscles.
A variation is to rest the foot against the wall behind you. Make sure your back knee is as close to the wall as possible. This allows a more passive stretch and relaxes the hamstrings.
Repeat the two stretches on the other leg.
Lie down on the floor or mat. Place your head on the ground and bend your knees. Lift the right heel towards the ceiling and straighten the leg. Grab under the knee of the risen leg and pull it towards the chest. Flex the heel so that you feel the work in your calves and hamstring. To deepen the stretch, straighten out the bottom leg. To increase the stretch, use a yoga strap, band, or belt wrapped under the sole of risen foot and gently pull the strap towards you to straighten the leg. Repeat other leg. Remain with your head on the floor during the stretch.
Remain of the floor. Cross your leg on top of the other and rest your foot onto the other thigh on the bottom leg. Have the knee out to the side making a triangle shaped window with your legs. Reach through the window and pull the bottom leg towards your chest. This stretches the piriformis, and opens the hip and outer thigh. If this is too deep of a stretch, or your head is off the ground, perform this sitting up and draw your chest to the knee. In this variation your bottom foot is flat on the floor. Repeat other leg.
Toes and feet
Bring your legs together and rise up onto your hands and knees. Have your feet flat on the floor and lean back to gently press your weight onto the feet. Next, curl up onto your toes then gently press your weight back to stretch the feet the other way. If you feel pain at the ankle behind the leg that is not the calf muscle being stretched, it may be the achilles tendon. Be gentle here and place less weight in the foot.
Stand and face the wall and place the ball of your foot against the wall but keep your heel on the floor. Gradually move forward to press more weight until you feel the stretch behind the shin.
—Submitted by Florence S., University of Saskatchewan