Post by: Katie Hall of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling.
I stretch because it feels good! I am sure there have been studies about the effects of stretching on injury prevention — but I think those are hard to prove. However, I know I feel much better, both mentally and physically, when I stretch regularly. I think if you don’t take your joints and muscles through their full range of motion, your body forgets that you have that range of motion and then it limits you.
Here are my four favorite stretches. They might not be yours — but give them a try.
1. Psoas stretch
I love to stretch my psoas. Since I spend a lot of time riding my bike and sitting at my desk, my psoas gets super tight. I know when it’s tight because it pulls on my lower back and makes me feel less comfortable on my bike.
To stretch your psoas, assume a lunge position with one knee in front of you, bent about 90 degrees. The other knee is on the floor. I usually put a cushion under it to protect my knee. Keep your torso upright — and squeeze your butt cheeks for a deeper stretch.
Another of my favorite stretches is for my glutes. There are many ways to stretch your glutes — but this stretch feels the best to me. I think we called this the “beauty queen stretch” when I was a kid.
Start by sitting on the floor with one leg bent and the other leg straight in front of you. Twist toward the bent leg until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Alternatively, hug your knee in toward you.
3. Doorway chest stretch
This is another good stretch for people who spend a lot of time at a desk or on a bike. People always say to do this stretch in a doorway — but my elbow span is less than many doorways.
If your elbow span is like mine, you can do one arm at a time. Put one arm on a wall and simply turn away from the wall, to get a good stretch.
Otherwise, place your forearms against a doorframe. Start with your elbows and shoulders at 90-degree angles. Stagger your feet so one is in front of you. Lean in to the doorway until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Move your elbows up or down to stretch more parts of your chest.
4. Upward-facing dog
This one is a common yoga pose and is a good stretch for the front side of the body.
Begin by lying facedown on the floor with your legs extended behind you. Place your hands on the floor alongside your body. Press up from the floor, straighten your arms, lifting your torso and your upper legs a few inches off the floor. Press down firmly through the tops of your feet. If your neck is flexible, tilt your head to gaze toward the sky. Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds.
What are YOUR favorite stretches pre- and post-workout?