HEALTH & FITNESS
Planning a vacation that involves long periods of sitting in a car? It's summertime and everyone wants to get escape on a little road trip. Summer is the time for adventure! But it can also take a toll on your body if you're not careful.
Sitting for long periods of time can put strain on the hip flexors in particular. This can, in turn, send a chain reaction of effects to the hips and lower. Ever wonder why your back hurts after sitting for so long? This is why.
Here are a few stretches you can take with you on the road to prevent this from happening. And what makes stretching so much better? Making sure you breathe into it (a little tip from yoga). Bonus: some of them you can do in the car- if you're a passenger, that is!
While typically done lying down, we can modify this for seated (in your car) or standing at a rest stop. The Figure 4 stretch targets the outer hip muscles, which are the external rotators. It helps to alleviate tension in the gluteal muscles and the deep piriformis.
To perform the Figure 4, simply cross one ankle over the opposite knee. If you're standing, make sure you have good footing and hold onto something for balance. From there, you can begin to fold over the legs. You will feel a deep stretch in the outer hip. Take at least 5 deep breaths here. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then try the other side.
Rag Doll Forward Fold
Again, this can be performed seated or standing. If seated, just make sure you have enough room to fold over. Or, if you're in your car, maybe have a pillow in front of you to rest your head on. This position is a great stretch for the lower back and hamstrings, which are chronically tight in many people, whether they are on a long road trip or not!
To do the Rag Doll, simply fold over your legs. The legs can be bent (if you're standing) and the back is rounded. Grab opposite elbows and sway side to side. Stay here for as long as you would like. This position is also very calming for the nervous system.
Twists are great ways to relieve lower back aches and pains from being sedentary. They also stimulate digestion, which can be helpful if you're eating outside your normal diet while traveling.
It is important to keep the hips square during any twist. You could do this in your car or even seated on a bench during a break for fresh air. So make sure your seat is firmly rooted and take a twist around the corner!
Start by twisting to the right first. Place your left hand on your right knee and use your right hand behind you to stabilize, like you are twisting toward it. Feel the center of the spine and the abdomen wrung out like a wet sponge. Take 5 deep breaths, then try the other side.
And here's the stretch that your tight hip flexors will thank you for! You will need to do this one outside. Don't be shy about stretching- maybe you will help someone by showing them how to better take care of their bodies!
If you struggle with your balance, you may want something to hold onto. Starting with the right foot forward, step your left foot back behind you. Bend the right knee so that the knee stacks over the ankle. It is very important to keep this alignment to prevent knee injuries and stretch the body appropriately- don't let the knee move toward the toes!
Press through the back heel and engage the quadriceps by lifting the back knee away from the ground. The hips remain square and the stretch will be in the left hip flexors. Stay for 5 breaths and then try the other side.
With help from Lindsay Calvert.