How to stretch without getting dirty ..

I have a bad habit of not warming up before I run instead preferring to start out somewhat slower than my usual pace whilst occasionally stopping to stomp my feet (because the soles of my feet always feel like they are on fire when I start) and/or stretch out my hamstrings. If James happens to be with me, he will get me to do sideways strides to warm up my adductors (good thinking) and I’ll made him walk like a tin solider because A) it helps stretch out the hamstrings and perhaps more importantly B) he looks funny ..

I guess not warming up is what you would refer to as a fitness faux pas.

Not cooling down is less of a fitness faux pas and more of a fitness sin – one I am often guilty of committing. Thankfully since taking up yoga regularly I’m much more mindful about keeping supple (because OMG I could not believe how much flexibility I had lost) and I’ve been trying to take at least a few minutes to stretch out after I’ve finished running.

As I generally run in places where you can’t sit down comfortably I’ve learnt how to stretch without any aides (apart from on ocassion the odd tree or fence gate) so I thought today I’d share how easy (and quick) it is to stretch out on the trail.

Quads & Hip Flexors;

I’ve grouped these together because with one slight change you can move from one stretch to the next (and I’m usually in a rush to get back to the car).

Standing quad stretch – Stand on your right foot and grab your left ankle/foot/shin (whichever you can comfortably reach) with your left hand and continue to pull the foot in towards your butt.  Keep both knees together (the standing leg is slightly bent), tuck your pelvis forward and keep the chest high to get a good stretch into the quadriceps of the left leg.  If balancing isn’t your strong point, you could extend the opposite arm out forwards/sideways or hold onto a tree, fence or stair rail – whatever is handy.

Standing hip flexor stretch – Without releasing the leg, push the foot into your hand, you’ll find that your chest may drop forward slightly but that’s ok – you want to feel a stretch on the side of your groin area (the hip flexors).  This stretch is a the very beginning of a dancers pose and if you have uber amazing balance (I do not) you could certainly continue onto the full pose if you wish too.

I hold both positions for at least 10 big breathes (it’s a yoga thing) then I’ll do the other leg.

The calf muscles;

Calf stretches – Step your left leg back, keeping your heel on the ground and bend into the front leg ensuring your toes are facing forward. Keeping both heels on the ground and lean forward with keeping your back leg straight.   You’ll often get a deeper stretch if you have something to push against, such as a tree, fence or stair rail.  When not using a “wall” I hold my hands outstretched to remind me to keep my chest up (it’s also a nice stretch across the back).

After 10 deep breathes step the back leg in slightly and bend the knee to stretch out the soleus which lies underneath the bigger gastroc muscle.

Take another 10 deep breathes and repeat on the other leg.

Glutes/Hip;

Standing pigeon – Stand tall, shifting your weight into one leg as you cross the opposite ankle over your standing leg’s thigh. Lower your hips back and down until you find a natural stopping point.  I was quite tight when I did this the other night so that’s as bent as that knee got that day, sometimes I can go lower but the important thing is to stop at the point where you can feel the stretch, you can always go lower after a few breathes if you are feeling comfortable in the posture.  Keep your spine long and use your arms for balance and make sure your standing leg’s knee points straight forward over your toes.  If you are feeling particularly limber you can lower a little further and reach your hands to the ground this is a great hip opening posture.

Take 10 deep breathes and repeat on the other leg.

Hamstrings and side body;

Hamstrings – Stand with one leg just in front of the other. Bend the back knee and rest your weight on that leg. Tilt the hips forwards keeping your back flat.  You want to push away from your bent leg, draw your abs towards your back and and tuck your pelvis in, don’t round forward from the back.

Take another 10 deep breathes and repeat on the other leg.

Side body – Stand tall with your feet together and lift your arms skywards then pull your shoulder blades down and towards each other.  Grab the wrist of one arm and pull it towards the opposite side.  Lean sideways while keeping your hips and body facing forwards.

Take another 10 deep breathes and repeat on the other side.

And that as they say – is it!

I will say that finding flat ground helps, I once did my cool down routine on a hill because it was raining at the time and that hilly area was sheltered, but at least I got it done ..

Where there is a will, there is a way!

Till next time

 

 

 

 

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