A little over a week ago, my husband and I spent 4 days driving to Missouri and back (about a 1,600 mile roundtrip) to bring home a puppy. After sitting in the truck for that long, we really felt it in our legs, hips and backs. Lower body muscles can get stiff fast and blood can pool in your lower extremities when you have to stay seated for an extended period. To offset this when traveling, you should try to include stretch breaks during your stops at rest areas, restaurants, and/or gas stations along the way.
Good stretches to perform for your legs, hips, and buttocks are pictured below. It is best to stretch your muscles when they have been warmed up. If traveling, take a few minutes to walk around the rest area to increase the blood flow to the muscles you will be stretching. If at home, incorporate the stretches into either the warm-up phase (latter half) or the cool-down phase of your exercise routine. The stretches should be performed in a slow, controlled manner. Do not bounce. Stretch only to the point of tension, not pain. Remember to breath while performing the stretches.
Runner's Stretch - stretches the hip adductors (inner leg muscles)
Technique: Stand with your feet wide apart. Bend your right knee to the right while pointing the toes of your right foot to the right. Keep your left leg straight with the toes of your left foot pointing slightly forward. You should feel the stretch in your inner left thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 3-4 times per side.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch - stretches your quadriceps muscles (upper thigh)
: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. While balancing on your left foot, pull your right foot up, behind your buttocks with your right hand. You may hold on to an object for balance if needed. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 3-4 times per leg.
Standing Hamstrings/Calves Stretch - stretches the buttocks, hamstrings, and calf muscles, as well as the achilles tendon
: While standing upright, raise your left leg and place on a park bench, picnic table, coffee table, or chair. While leaning forward at the hips, grab the toes of your left foot with your left hand and gently pull your toes toward your body to the point of tension. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 3-4 times per side.
Raised Leg Shin Stretch - stretches hip, quadriceps, and shin muscles
: Stand with your back to a park bench, picnic table, chair, or coffee table. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Place the top of your right foot onto the chair or coffee table. While keeping your back straight, bend your left knee and push your hips forward and down. At the same time, push your right foot into the chair or coffee table until you feel the stretch in the front of your right hip, thigh and shin. You may hold on to another object for balance if needed. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 3-4 times per leg.
These stretches are great to do while traveling or as part of your normal exercise routine. They are especially good exercises for runners, cyclers, and rowers.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Labels: flexibility, lower body stretches, stretching