You’ve just spent 43 intense minutes going all-out in class. You’re dripping sweat and feeling tired, but good. You are ready to get out and move on with your day. This is one of the most common mistakes among active people - not taking just a few minutes to stretch after an intense workout.
Stretching is an active part of the recovery process. It is a crucial aspect in keeping your body healthy and strong so that you can crush tomorrow’s workout. The simple act of stretching increases blood flow and circulation throughout your muscles, in turn decreasing the amount of soreness you may feel after a tough workout.
Whether you’ve been sitting at your desk all day or climbing hills and crushing sprints in spin class, your body is begging for some motion in those muscles, especially your hips. Sitting causes stress to your hips and glutes. A lack of stretching can over-stress other muscles and joints and can lead to referred pain in areas like your back and knees.
Here are three important stretches for the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors that you can easily incorporate into your day. Just 5 minutes a day is all it takes to start feeling the benefits.
Stand tall and as you exhale bend forward from the hips keeping a slight bend in your knees. Fold the torso all the way to your quads and bend the knees as much as you need. The emphasis is lengthening the front of your torso. Bring your finger tips to the floor beside your feet. If you can’t touch the floor with your fingertips, grab opposite elbows and breath. Let your head say yes and no and fully relax your upper body in order for your hamstrings to stretch.
Start on all fours (hands and knees). Bring one knee forward and place it behind your wrist. Your ankle should be in front of your left hip, and the area from your knee to your ankle should be as parallel as possible. The more parallel it is, the more open your hip will be. Hold for 45 seconds to a full minute, then switch legs. Pigeon specifically increases external range of motion and mobility where the femur meets the hip socket.
Begin by kneeling in a lunge position with your right leg forward (left knee on a padded surface for more comfort). Start with your right foot directly below your knee. Lean forward into your front leg and push your hips forward, feeling length in your left hip flexor. For a more intense stretch, slide your front right foot forward slightly beyond the knee and push your hips forward. This will allow you to sink further into your front leg getting further into that left front hip. After about a minute, switch legs!
By enabling more mobility in your body, you drastically decrease your risk for injury or burnout.