So how do you stretch? Just bend over and touch your toes, right? While that’s a start, but it doesn’t work all areas of your body to prevent injuries. There are many different intensities of stretching. For instance, if you want a full body experience yoga is a great opportunity to relax all of your muscles. Not only is it a great exercise that will decrease your likelihood of ending up in the ER, but it’s also relaxing.
Stretching is one of those things you tend to put off, that is until something happens. Only then do you think, ‘Oh yeah! I should have been doing those stretches!’ Many of us have a busy schedule, making exercising in itself a hard endeavor. Work was long and you’re tired. You just want to get on and off the treadmill as soon as possible and head home. It’s only until the next morning when you’re rolling out of bed that you feel it, the tight little tweaks in your muscles.
As we move and build muscle, our muscle fibers become more dense and repair themselves. This builds tension in the tendons, the connecting tissue between muscle and bone, which can put stress on practically any area of your body. In extreme cases, it can even pull your spine out of alignment. But this must only be for people who do extreme workouts right? Nope, not at all! Many people have suffered injuries from something as simple as bending over to tie their shoes. Stretching greatly reduces the risk of these types of accidents from happening.
Yoga not really your style? There are still many other options available. The trick is, just like starting a new workout, to take it slow and begin with simple moves. A great place to begin is a runner’s lunge. Place one foot in front of the other, and bend the forward leg 90 degrees while your other leg is extended behind you. Then, reverse legs. This exercise is great for stretching your calves and hamstrings.
Inner Thigh Stretch
To stretch your inner thighs, stand with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart. Then bend one leg so that you are nearly sitting in a ninja-like pose, so your whole body is leaning to one side. Then, bend to the other side. While you are standing again, with your legs greater than hip-width apart, stretch your obliques and sides. Reach one arm over your head, far to the opposite side. And as always, alternate sides.
For runners, it is especially important to stretch your quads (muscle on top of your thighs). Try a simple leg behind lift. Bend one of your legs behind you and hold your leg with both of your hands by the ankle. Then pull your leg slightly behind you. The more you practice this move, the farther you will be able to pull your leg behind you.
It’s always a good idea to stretch your back and stomach, in case crunches are in your near future. Start with a cobra stretch, which is just a fancy way of saying stomach stretch. Lay on a mat, stomach facing downwards, with your hands placed near your shoulders. Then lift up your upper body by pushing up on your arms until they are straightened with your head pointed above you.
Cat Back/Old Horse
For your back, try the cat back/old horse combo. Position yourself as a cat would with knees and hands on the mat, and then raise your back so that it is curved like a rainbow. After a few seconds, lower your back downwards so that it is shaped like a smile. Alternating between cat back and old horse two to four times will keep your back nice and loose.
Head and shoulders, knees, and
Don’t forget to stretch your neck, shoulders, knees, and ankles. These are some of your most vulnerable areas. All you need to do is a few simple shoulder and head rolls, and knee and ankle rotations to prevent potential damage. Even doing a few of these simple stretches before your workout can prevent serious injuries from happening.
Prevent Back Injuries
Sitting at the office all day can take a serious toll on your back and the alignment of your spine. By getting up every hour or two to do a few easy stretches, you’ll notice a greater ease of movement throughout your day and work-out.
The forward hang is a great stretch for your back. Spread your feet at hip’s distance apart, keeping your knees bent a little. Put your arms behind your back interlocking your hands. Now bend forward so your back is flat like a table while you stretch your arms and hands are lifted towards the ceiling. You can add to this stretch by simply releasing your arms and reaching for the ground afterwards. Try moving your arms towards one foot and the other as well for a fuller body stretch. Don’t worry if your can’t reach your toes just yet. After a few stretches, your flexibility should improve.
Increase Core Strength
Core stretches are a wonderful way to improve your posture and help your lower back. Many core moves, don’t even require you to be standing. You can do it right at your desk, like the seated twist. While you are still in your chair, simply turn your upper body to the far left grabbing one arm of your chair for greater range, while your legs are still stationary. Then turn to the right and keep that position for a few seconds.
As you start taking the time to stretch you’ll notice that your daily activities and exercises become easier. Most importantly, you’ll prevent the morning after pains. Remember to start out slow and allow yourself to get used to stretching before and after workouts. If you’ve been neglecting your stretches, you’ll may find it hard at first. However, as you make your muscles more mobile you’ll soon be limber and ready to roll.
If you want even more stretching options, stop waiting and start doing. Contact Biomotion Physical Therapy.