As a dancer (and someone who had to take nine painful years of compulsory physical education at school), I cannot overstate the importance of stretching before and after exercising. Not doing so is a one-way ticket to an injury and multiple physio appointments. Warming up and cooling down the muscles you plan on using will lower your chances of pulling or tearing them significantly. Stretching, especially with a playlist of calming music, can also be incredibly relaxing, and research has shown it to be helpful in combating some of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
With that in mind, I’m going to share the stretching routine I use.
- Tilt head to left, right, front, and back. Hold each for 8 counts.
- Roll head to right 4 times and repeat to left.
- Tuck right arm into left elbow and pull over chest. Hold for 8 counts and repeat on other side.
- Try to link hands behind back and hold for 8 counts. Try both ways.
- Roll shoulders forwards and backwards 8 times each.
- Swing arms around 4 times to the front and 4 times to the back.
- Left hand on hip; right hand curved above head; legs shoulder width apart; lean to the left for 8 counts.
- Bend at waist and stay with flat back for 8 counts.
- Lean over and try to touch ankles for 8 counts.
- Move to center and hold for 8 counts.
- Move to right ankle and hold for 8 counts.
- Flat back to opposite side for 8 counts.
- Side stretch for 8 counts.
- Repeat and reverse process.
- Stand with legs shoulder width apart.
- Squat down, grab ankles, and slowly straighten legs as far as you can. Hold for 8 counts.
- Repeat 4 times, stepping legs in until heels touch.
- Lunge on the right leg. Hold for 8 counts.
- Staying in lunge position, place elbows on the floor. Hold for 8 counts.
- Bend the back leg and push forward to stretch hip flexer. Hold for 8 counts.
- Straighten front leg and try to hold ankle. Hold for 8 counts. Repeat process on left leg.
- Sit in a butterfly position (with both heels together) and push each knee down in turn.
- Push the right leg out and place the left foot against its knee. Flex the foot and try to grab it. Hold for 8 counts.
- Relax over the leg, pointing the toe, and try to inch your hands toward the toes. See if you can get your head on your knee. Repeat the process on the other leg.
- Sit in second position (legs apart) and lean to the right, extending the opposite arm above the head and trying to touch the right foot. This should also stretch your side. Hold for 8 counts and repeat on opposite leg.
- With legs still in second position, slowly crawl your hands forward to the center until your chest is on the floor or as close to it as possible. Hold for 8 counts.
- Lay on your stomach with your legs slightly apart and place your hands shoulder width apart before pushing up on them. Hold for 8 counts.
- Bend backwards, until your legs are bent under your body and stretch your arms forward. Hold for 8 counts.
Just a couple of 15 to 20-minute stretch sessions a week will improve flexibility, reduce stress, and decrease the chance of an injury! It’s a great way to warm up and cool down before and after exercise, and it’s something that will be highly beneficial, no matter how flexible you already are. Let us know in the comments what you think!