Fitting fitness into a busy schedule can be difficult, so it’s no surprise that weekly workouts often get cut short for the sake of time. Since I typically go for a run before starting my workday, I leave very little wiggle room for anything other than a shower and quick breakfast before I’m out the door and on the clock.
Finding those extra 10 minutes for simple stretches after my run seems impossible — which, unfortunately, often leaves me feeling tight and sore in my hamstrings, glutes and calves for the rest of the day.
Research has shown that stretching can help reduce soreness and increase your range of motion (which in turn can improve your form). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults do flexibility exercises at least two or three days a week, holding each stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeating two to four times.
Looking to get started? Here are five simple stretches you can do at home.
Figure Four Stretch
This stretch targets your iliotibial band (IT band) and hips, which are two areas that often trouble runners and cyclists. Lie on your back, lift both legs into the air and cross one over the other to create an upside-down “4” shape. Use your hands to help support your legs if necessary.
This stretch is easy enough to do in the shower or while brushing your teeth (as long as you have a sturdy wall for support), which is why I like it. Simply bend one leg backwards, bringing your heel toward your bottom and grabbing the top of your foot with the hand on the same side.
Activities like prolonged sitting, lifting heavy weights and driving can lead to tight shoulders. Do a simple shoulder stretch by straightening one arm, extending it across your body and using your other arm to apply pressure against it toward your chest. This will loosen the upper back, neck and rotator cuff.
Although this stretch is great for runners, it helps athletes of any kind. Lunge forward with one leg while keeping your back leg straight or bringing your back knee to the ground for added support.
Hold the pose or extend your arms toward the ground. Change things up by shortening your stance, straightening your front leg and lowering your head and hands toward the floor with both legs straight. You’ll feel this stretch in your hip flexors, abdomen and hamstrings.
Forward Bend Stretch
This classic stretch is as simple as can be and has a range of benefits. Keep your legs straight and bend forward at your hips, extending your fingers toward your toes. Feel your hamstrings and lower back lengthen as you reach toward the floor.
Alter the stretch and target your shoulders by bringing your hands behind your back, clasping them and then letting them fall toward your head as you bend forward. If you can’t clasp your hands, use a rope or towel in between them.
Perform these five simple stretches a few times a week, ideally after your workout when your muscles are warm and before soreness sets in. Before you know it, you’ll come to appreciate your 10-minute stretch routine just as much as your full workout — I know that whenever I actually find time for it, I certainly do!
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.