Stretching consistently is going well. Pamela commented on my blog last week wanting to know some stretches. I’m not sure where she’s at in stretching but this should get us going. Here you go Pam (Lo siento! No hay una versión en español):
Before you start there are some general points to pay attention to. First, the best time to stretch is when the body is warm and the muscles/tendons are more limber. Ideally you have a good sweat going from physical activity, or you can cheat and take a nice hot shower, that works too. Second, it is important to stay relaxed and not force a stretch. The reason can be demonstrated by interlocking your fingers together and squeezing tightly. Then try to pull them apart and it doesn’t work well. When you relax the fingers it’s no problem; the fingers easily slide past each other. The fibers that make up tendons and muscles work in much the same way. Holding a tense, painful, and unproductive stretch doesn’t encourage anyone to stretch regularly either. Breath naturally and be in a comfortable environment to help be relaxed. Third, have good posture and pay attention to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or there is pain, don’t do it. Fourth, to gain flexibility stretches typically need to be held at least 30 seconds to a minute. Longer is fine as well. Do repetitions of stretches, say 3 times, either in the same time period or through out the day. Finally, play around with how you stretch. For example, I’ll sometimes alternate between two stretches, say the hamstrings and quadriceps, to do the repetitions. By alternating them, one muscle group gets to relax, get blood, and “breath” while the other stretches.
1) Hamstrings / Back of the Legs
A) Sit down, lean forward and then scoot your butt against a wall. Then sit up. If there’s any space between you and the wall, even down where the wall meets the ground, lean forward again and scoot back more. Once you can’t move back any more sit up straight and allow the wall to support your back. If you’re just starting, your knees may need to be bent. Try to use your leg muscles to push them to the ground. That maybe be enough. However, once the back of the legs are good and flat on the ground pull the toes back towards your face and push your heels out. Toes should point straight up and not out to the side. If it’s too easy then get someone to gently press the ball of your foot back towards your face with their foot.
B) Find a low wall, table, or two chairs and extend one leg out. Like the first stretch, make sure to keep your toes pointing straight up. Sit/stand up as straight as possible. It’s as if your spine is being pulled all the way from the base out through the top of the skull by a string. Then lean forward bending at the hips to feel the stretch in the leg. Don’t let the back hunch or round. You’ll cause tension in the back.
C) This one focuses on the calf muscle. It helps to have something to grab like the rails in the picture. Get close to the wall and allow your butt to stick back while placing the ball of your foot up against the wall at an angle. Then straighten your back and leg pressing the heel into the ground.
2) Quadriceps / Front of the Legs
A) Stand with the body upright and the supporting leg directly underneath you slightly bent. Extend the stretching leg back and rest it on something like our good friend, the chair. Keep the stretching leg close to the standing leg so the knees would be close together if they were both directly underneath you. Think about keeping the hips squared (as if parallel to the wall) and push them forward a little. If you stand further from the wall the stretch will be higher up the leg. Standing closer to the wall, the more the knee bends more and the stretch will be close to it. Play around with what feels appropriate. Continue pushing the hips forward and bending the supporting leg to feel the stretch.
3) Abductors / Inside of the Legs
A) Start this one standing and then slowly bend at the waist so the hands and head hang loose. If you can touch the ground, great, if not, no problem. Slow move the heels out, then the toes out, repeating a heel toe heel toe pattern. When the hands reach the ground use them for support and control while widening the legs. Just before your limit, point the toes inward and allow the ankles to relax. The bottom of the feet should be flat on the ground. Relax the back and hips leaning forward using the structure from the hands on the ground to adjust.
B) This is a continuation from A to increase the stretch for one side. Slowly walk your hands on the ground, one after another, over to one side. Reach for the ankle.
C) Sit against a wall and put your feet together. Going all the way back to the very first stretch for hamstrings, get as much of your back against the wall as possible. Then relax the hips allowing the legs to sink. Apply a little pressure with your hands and you’ll feel from the groin out to the backs of the knees. If you can, open your feet like a book to read to get more stretch.
4) IT Band / Outside of the Legs
A) Place one leg up on that sturdy chair. The stretched leg’s knee should be pointing straight forward and you can adjust the angle of the bent knee. Keep the hips squared and the back upright. Then lean forward from the hips to get the initial stretch on the outside of the leg. Sometimes I do this for about 30 seconds and switch to completely relaxing so that my chest and head rest on my leg. It’s a bit different but both ways feel good and keep the hip and IT band loose.
When your done stretching take a minute to let the body readjust. Stand feet parallel and lightly bounce the body up and down to shake things out. Drink some water and have a good day.