Independence is not just something our country celebrates on the 4th of July every year. It also represents being able to do what you want when you want, without any limitations.
A client of mine is an endurance athlete who has done triathlons for years. When she first came to me, she had pain in her left knee doing a basic lunge and chronic back pain. During her assessment process I did a full body stretch on her and it was like she was in a straightjacket of tight muscles!
She also had a slight kyphosis (upper back forward rounded posture). Then I learned that she did spin classes two to three times a week with weekly 50-mile bike rides and 10-mile runs and didn’t take any time to stretch. At all. No stretching?? Now it all made sense, and she was clearly an injury waiting to happen.
After seeing me once to twice a week for stretching and soft tissue work, she now has full range of motion and is pain-free. Daily activities like sitting at a desk or computer, driving for long hours and taking part in certain sports can lead to tight hip flexors, lower back and shoulders, and a forward bent-over posture that can only worsen with age if not corrected.
Here are my top five daily stretches that you can do to help prevent injury:
- Lower Back (Knees to Chest) – lying flat on the floor, bring both knees up to your chest and over to one side, trying to keep both shoulders in contact with the floor. Hold 30 seconds and repeat to the other side. For a more advanced stretch, keep one leg straight on the floor, bring the other knee up to your chest and across the body toward the floor. You can gently press on the knee with the hand that’s closest.
- Lower Back (Cobra Stretch and Child’s Pose) – lying face down on the floor, come up onto the elbows keeping the hips on the floor and abdominals in. Hold for 30 seconds and then sit back onto the heels and resting your head on the floor with arms extended. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat the cobra stretch on either the elbows or with straight arms, if you feel ready, following it with the child’s pose.
- Hamstrings – lying flat on the floor with the left leg straight on the floor, lift the right leg and wrap a towel under your right foot. Holding the towel with both hands, stretch the right leg up keeping the knee straight and relax for 30 seconds to one minute. The discomfort level should not reach more than a 6 or 7 out of 10.
- Hip Flexors (where the front of your leg meets your hip) – long hours spent sitting at a desk, cycling and running all make the hip flexors tight which can lead a forward bent-over posture, and knee and lower back injuries. Place the right knee on a towel on the floor and rest the right arm on a bench or chair, place the left foot in front of you far enough so you get a stretch in the front of the right hip with the left knee over your toe and left arm resting on the left leg. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat on the other side.
- Chest Stretch – standing up tall, clasp both hands behind your back at the level of your lower back and straighten your elbows. Pull the shoulder blades together and breathe deeply into your chest. If you have more shoulder flexibility, keeping the elbows straight raise your arms up higher behind you. Hold 30 seconds to one minute.