There are few things better than getting into a big, deep stretch. Stretching releases muscle tension, improves range of motion, and improves flexibility, which means your chance of injury decreases and you just feel better in everyday life. There are many different stretches you can incorporate into your daily routine, but if you’re short on time or want to get the biggest bang for your time, there are several that target multiple muscle groups at a time.
The moves below are easy to do, but if you are unsure about how to do them, take a minute to find a video of each stretch online so you know you’re performing them correctly and you get the most out of your stretch. You’ll notice, over time, that you’ll be able to hold each position for longer, go deeper, and before long, see changes in your posture and movement.
For each move, try holding for four to eight seconds and do them in succession five times, building from there.
This is a move you can start as a bent-over toe stretch and advance to placing your heel on the floor to target your calves more. To do this, stand with your feet close together, bending at the waist, and hang your arms toward the floor as far as they will go. Graduate to touching your toes and then placing your fingers under your toes, lifting up slightly.
Once you’ve mastered the above, stand with your feet less than hip-width apart. Reach both hands toward the ceiling and step one foot in front of you. Place your outstretched heel on the ground and point your toe up. Keeping your toe up, bend your opposite knee and lower your hands so your fingertips meet your toes (or as close as you can get to your toes). Once you start to feel your calf muscle stretch, switch and repeat on your other leg. That’s one rep.
This is an easy stretch that targets your hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings and is one many runners incorporate into their before-and-after-run routine. Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee so that your leg touches your chest. Hold this for a few seconds. Then, rotate your right leg until your knee is touching the ground in front of your left leg. Rotate your right arm, head, and upper back to the right until you feel a stretch.
Do the same on the other side to complete one rep. You’ll notice over time you can go deeper into your lunge and reach your arms further to each side. This one will also help you avoid injury if you spend time pounding the pavement.
This is a stretch you can do before your feet even touch the floor in the morning. Lie on your stomach and place your hands flat beneath your shoulders (either in your bed or on the floor if you prefer a harder surface). Tuck your elbows in by your sides and raise your head and chest slowly, keeping your hips on the bed or floor. As you gain flexibility, you can begin to go a little deeper by lifting your stomach off the bed.
Once you feel you’ve mastered the move, try grabbing your ankles behind you, keeping your arms straight, lift your ankles and chest, forming a “U” shape with your body. This is one you’ll want to work up to and avoid altogether if you have a history of lower back pain or injury.
Stretching not only helps your body improve but can also impact your mental well-being. Especially during the pandemic, many of us have been spending more time indoors than we ever remember. That feeling of being cooped up indoors or slouched over our laptops all day working from home can take a toll.
Taking a few minutes every day to find movements that help us feel more limber can improve our outlook on the day and get rid of the aches and pains that come from being stationary. It gives us time to breathe and reflect on the day ahead. They are simple and take very little time out of your day, but you’ll quickly notice an improvement in how your body feels.
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