After three hours of dancing at your favorite club last night, your legs and hips feel a bit tight and sore for your morning run. Before you take your first running stride, take some time to stretch and move your joints. Proper stretching and moving is like giving yourself an oil change to your body. It increases blood flow, as well as muscle and tissue elasticity, and prepares your body and mind for the upcoming activity.
Toe Touch With Toe Raise
Stand with your feet together with the balls of your feet and toes on top of a foot-long foam roller. Raise your hands over your head.
Exhale and bend your torso down, reaching your fingers to your toes. Bend your knees as much as needed to touch your toes. Hold this position for two deep breaths.
Raise your body up to the starting position. Perform eight to 10 reps.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on the ground on your left knee with your right foot in front of you. Bend your right knee at about 90 degrees.
Raise your left hand overhead and put your right hand on your right thigh. Push your hips forward slightly to increase the stretch in your hip flexors and your thigh. Hold this position for three deep breaths.
Lean your torso to your right to increase the stretch. Hold this position for three deep breaths. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side by switching your leg position.
Active Hamstring and Calf Stretch
Lie on your back on the ground and bring your right knee to your ribs. Grab the back of your right knee with both hands. Do not move your left leg.
Extend your right knee as much as you can and flex your right foot to your face. Hold this stretch for one deep breath and bend your right knee.
Extend your leg again; repeat this movement pattern for eight to 10 reps. Do the same stretch for your left leg.
Cross-Body Hip Stretch
Lie on your back with your hands out to your sides and your legs together.
Turn your hip to your left and bring your right knee to your ribs with your knee bent at about 90 degrees. Put your left hand on your right knee and keep your left leg straight.
Extend your right leg to increase the stretch in your hip and the back of your right leg. Hold this position for one deep breath.
Bend the right leg to 90 degrees and repeat the movement for eight to 10 reps. Do the same for the other leg and hip.
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
- University of New Mexico: Stretching: A Research Retrospective
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- Gray Cook: Expanding on the Joint-by-Joint Approach
- Oftentimes, tight hips can reduce leg mobility, which can cause the tight sensation, says physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." When you stretch and do dynamic flexibility in your hip joints first, then your legs can have a higher range of motion.
- Exercise physiologist Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico suggests that you perform dynamic flexibility before your workout. This involves moving multiple joints together repetitively in their full range of motion, such as leg swings or lunging in multiple directions. Static stretching, which is holding a stretch of a muscle group or joint for a period of time, should be done after a workout.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.