BFFs!! I ALWAYS stretch. To be honest it is one of my greatest pleasures in life! Once you become flexible and stretch often it is more of a relaxation method than a workout. My legs, body and arms SQREAM to be stretched several times a day. My motivation stems from meeting this friend of my mothers when I was nine, who looked SO young, yet was older than my mother… she is the one that I heard say “You are as young as your spine is flexible.” I know several people have said this, and a great deal of people who love yoga have heard this phrase a lot, but I have practiced this just by stretching… I am not a huge yoga enthusiast, yet I feel that stretching has benefitted me greatly. Also I have a twin sister (identical)- Jordan Elizabeth who y’all know, and a younger sister. I am taller than each of them, and I really think it is because I stretch and they don’t! THESE BELOW ARE MY FAVORITE STRETCHES!
Spine Stretch: Technique: Sitting on the floor with your feet wider than your hips, nod your head forward and begin to bend forward by hinging at the hips. Breathe normally. As you go down, draw your chin into your neck. “It feels like you’re rolling down the discs of the spine,” says Margot McKinnon, director of Body Harmonics Pilates in Toronto, who trains Pilates teachers across Canada and the U.S. Slide your hands in front of you along the floor.
“This stretch elongates the paraspinal muscles [the muscles beside the spine], and you may feel it in the hamstrings, calf muscles and the bottoms of the feet.” Your hands should not reach past your toes—you’re not aiming to lie on the floor—and you shouldn’t feel as if your back and spinal ligaments are being pulled. Once you feel the stretch through your back, slowly return to the starting position. McKinnon advises doing this several times daily, after the end of your workday(Best Health Magazine) I love this stretch as it stretches my back, all the way down to my feet! I feel as though my arms get a good stretch in as well.
Supine cross-leg spinal twist: Technique: Lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, stretch your arms out to your sides, palms face down. Think of this as a yoga move and breathe throughout the stretch; inhale and exhale for about four seconds each. Cross your right knee over your left knee, as if you’re sitting in a chair, with your right foot off the floor. Shift your hips to the right about two inches (5 cm), and drop your knees to the left. “You don’t need the knees to touch the floor,” says Marla Ericksen, an integrated fitness coach and spokesperson for CanFitPro. “Come to a natural stop whenever your range of motion is finished.” Your right shoulder will come off the floor a bit, and that’s okay, as long as you continue to face the ceiling. Now, turn your right hand so the palm faces up and reach your right arm back and halfway up toward your head. “That’s to open up the chest and finish off the rotation of the spine,” says Ericksen. Hold for one to three minutes; repeat on the other side(Best Health Magazine) This stretch always makes my back feel amazing! This is truly a relaxing stretch.
Seated Spinal Twist: This exercise requires you to sit on the floor and to twist your upper body to either side at the waist, stretching the back. First, sit down with your legs stretched out. Then, tuck in your left knee until it faces up and then move it over your right thigh. Keep your right leg extended while your left knee is facing upwards, and twist to your left side. Place your right elbow to the side of your left knee to intensify the stretch. Hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds and repeat it on your other side.(Wikihow.com)
- Focus on stretching your body upward as well as to the left or right.
- If you’re stretching to the left, try looking over your left shoulder for a bonus. Follow the same process on your right side.
Seated forward bend: Technique: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook a yoga strap or towel around the bottoms of your feet, and leave it there for now. Inhale and reach your arms up to the ceiling. Exhale and begin to bend forward gently by hinging at the hips, and bring your belly down to your thighs. Grasp the yoga strap or towel, keeping your back straight. “You want to lengthen the spine and keep your neck in line with your body,” says Eva Redpath, a personal trainer and the founder of Body Conditioning by Dancers in Toronto. Take another breath and, as you exhale, see if you can bring your upper body even closer to your legs. Hold for between 30 seconds and three minutes. Go as far as you comfortably can, and build from there each time you do it. “Stretch until you feel mild tension, nothing strenuous or painful. Over time, as you practise this stretch, you’ll be able to go down farther.”(Best Health Magazine) This one like the stretch above really stretches your back all the way down to your feet! Lengthen those legs!
Hip Flexor Muscles:
Hip Flexors: “The hip flexor is a group of muscles that attach your femur, or thigh bone, to your pelvis and lumbar spine. The hip flexor allows you to raise your legs toward your torso. The muscles of the hip flexor are also responsible for keeping your hips and lower back strong, flexible and properly aligned.”(Fitday.com) The hip flexors are the muscles that connect your legs to your torso… how important is that?!?!?! Ummmmm… stretch these bad boys!
Butterfly pose: This is one of my favorite poses. It is so easy, and yet it stretches such important muscles in your body! Don’t be hard on yourself if your knees are sticking straight up and you can’t get them to touch the ground. Everyone starts out somewhere. 🙂 Including me!
Pigeon Pose: This pose I LOVE!! It not only stretches the hip flexors, but if you stretch your thigh muscles, and your torso muscles, especially once you make it to the king pigeon pose I am pictured doing below.
Pigeon: King Pigeon: Look below for the transition step.
Kneeling hip Flexor Stretch With Raised Foot: This BFFs can help you get from Pigeon to King Pigeon. Be easy with your transitions. Keep your knee from going over your toes on your forward stretching leg.
In addition to the stretches below the stretches above also stretch your legs.
Stretching the quads forces your hamstrings to contract, helping them get stronger. It’s important to have strong and flexible quads since these muscles help lift your knees and increase your speed. This standing quad stretch is into to incorporate after a run, and once you master this, you can carefully pull your thigh and knee slightly behind your body (not pictured) for a greater hip flexor stretch at the same time.
Stand tall, holding onto a chair or wall for balance if necessary (not pictured). Keep your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your feet parallel. Reach back and grab your left foot in your left hand, keeping your thighs lined up next to each other and left leg in line with the hip (not pulled back behind you).Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.(Sparkpeople.com)
BFFs!!! This is one of my FAVORITE STRETCHES!!!111 Your piriformis muscle is responsible for the rotation of the hip. Although it’s very important in activities that frequently change direction, it tends to tighten up in runners. If the piriformis becomes too tight or spasms, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which causes pain in the glutes, lower back and thighs. (Sparkpeople.com)
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your back straight. Keep your hips level and your lower back down on the floor. Bend your left knee, placing left foot flat on the floor (not pictured). Cross your right ankle at your left knee. Grab the back of your left thigh and hug your legs towards your chest. Place your right elbow on the inner portion of your right knee and push it slightly to the side. Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side. To reduce the intensity of this stretch, don’t bring your legs towards your chest as much.(Sparkpeople.com) This stretch really stretches my leg (at the top) right where it attaches. Also stretches all the way down my thigh.
Flexible calf muscles can improve your ability to increase the length of your stride, which results in increased speed. Loose calf muscles also take some of the burden away from your shins as you bring your trailing leg forward when running, helping prevent shin pain or shin splints.
There are MANY other stretches, these are my fav! I hope this helps!