From jogging to golf, these stretches will help you become a limber, calorie-burning machine in no-time.
Ah, finally: the sun is shining, the days are longer, and the temperature is close to perfect. A long winter of Netflix on the couch is coming to an end. For some of you, that will mean running outdoors again, or going on hikes. For others, you’re probably looking forward to tuning up your bike, re-stringing your racquet and putting on your swimsuit — maybe even all on the same day.
But whoa, slow down, sport. Whether you’re a natural athlete or just looking to get healthy, too much, too fast, especially after a sedentary winter, can mean an injury. Before you hit the golf course or the pool, you’ve got to limber up or you’ll soon be nursing a strained hamstring or achy lower back. You should also do a post-workout stretch, too — a step most people forget — to help your body cool down in order to let your muscles recover.
But how exactly is the summer athlete supposed to know what stretches are the most effective and most efficient for her workout? Well, just keep reading: we’ve done the research and interviewed the experts for you. No matter what your athletic pursuit, we’ve rounded up the best stretches for your sport.
Golfing seems like a gentle way to get in shape: you stride briskly through a beautifully landscaped green, breathing the scent of freshly cut grass and flowers. It’s a game that is as much mental as physical — but take a too-enthusiastic swing without warming up and you’ll be hurting before the second hole.
Nadia Murdock, a fitness coach and author of You Can Have It All, says, “[A]voiding tight hips is highly recommended … with some games that last up to four hours for 18 holes, the last thing you want is to do is under-perform.”
Nadia told us about a golf-specific stretch that, ideally, you should do daily in the week leading up to your first game of the season. To keep your form limber on the day, she also recommends using this same stretch as a five-minute warm-up routine just before tee-off. “[W]hile everyone is doubling up on the breakfast buffet, you will be one step ahead of the game and most likely injury-free too!”
Standing Trunk Rotations
These core twists will loosen you up in the hips and back. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and place the golf club across your shoulders. Place your hands on each end of the club and grip it securely, or rest your wrists on either end. Slowly rotate your left shoulder to the right side while pivoting on the ball of your left foot, keeping your right foot stable. Repeat the same action on the other side. While rotating, maintain a fluid motion as though you are pushing against a current of water — don’t jerk your hips. This will lubricate your core and get you ready for your first “real” swing. If you want to incorporate this into your regular (wintertime!) workout, try it with a resistance band at the gym and focus on working your abs.
Summer naturally means swimming, and whether you’re a competitive pool swimmer or just a recreational splasher at the lake, it’s important to warm up before you jump in.
Melinda Nelson, a personal trainer at the world-renowned Golden Door Resort and Spa, suggests taking a few minutes to warm up before starting your laps and leaving a few minutes at the end to cool down.
Melinda says, “Before your water workout, you want to warm up the shoulders and spine.”
Step 1: Starting at a standing position, simulate a crawl stroke. Circle your arms forward one at a time and let your torso rotate with each arm motion. Then repeat the same thing, simulating the backstroke, again rotating your torso with each stroke.
Step 2: Stand up straight, raise both arms up above your head, and reach to the sky. Arc back and open the chest while exhaling and then drop the arms and let them swing just past the hips (inhaling while you do so). Repeat both exercises five to eight times.
Step 1: Extend your right arm in front of your body and grab it at the elbow with your left hand. Pull your extended arm towards your chest. Repeat on the other side.
Step 2: Clasp your hands together behind your lower back then exhale and inhale slowly, letting the chest expand. Repeat these three to five times.
Whether you’re careening down mountain trails or just peddling around the block, biking is a fast way to feel like a kid again. But while biking is exhilarating and terrific for your health, you can still injure yourself if you jump in too quickly.
Brooke Taylor of Taylored Fitness NY LTD, says, “A biker naturally sits flexed over the handle bars, rounding their shoulders, spine, and activating their hip flexors and quadriceps in order to get in a proper position for racing. As a result, this habitual pattern may cause muscular imbalances, changing the body’s structural alignment.”
Brooke recommends that cyclists use a foam roller — most gyms have them, or you can order one for about $15 — to work the iliotibial band (the band of fibers that begin at the iliac crest in the pelvis, and then runs down the thigh, and ends at the shin bone). The foam roller is also great for calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and abductors. Here’s how:
Pre-Roll Foam Roller Stretches
Drop the foam roller on the floor — you’re basically going to be lying on top of it and rolling yourself back and forth, using your hands for leverage and balance. Then:
Step 1: Place the roller under the area that you are targeting, e.g., quadriceps. Balance on your hands, like you’re doing a push-up, and roll the roller back and forth along the entire length of the muscle from hip to knee.
Step 2: Rest your weight on the roller on the areas that are a little more sensitive. This will break up any muscle adhesions. If this is uncomfortable, try to breathe and relax into the pressure.
Step 3: Repeat on your quads, hips, and hamstrings, or anywhere that feels tight, “rolling” each muscle for about 60 seconds. Please note that the roller may not feel comfortable or even bearable at first, but it will get better: as the adhesions start to break apart and release, you’ll notice an increase in your range of motion and flexibility.
Tennis and summer workout go together like sandals and ice cream cones. Yes, you can (and maybe even do!) play tennis indoors, but it’s just not the same: there’s something about the sun shining on a hot court that makes you feel like you’re on your way to Wimbledon. Well, if you are, or even if you’re just volleying with your kids after lunch, you’ll still need to stretch before you dive for that first serve. Here are a few stretches recommended by Melinda Nelson.
1. First, limber up the arms: press your open palms together, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Keep pressing the palms into each other and move them as if you’re tracing small circles, each one a little further away from your body. Then repeat the circles back towards your body. Aim for six to eight circles in each direction. Then, toss your arms open and closed as if you were giving yourself a bear hug.
2. Next, warm up your hips. Move your hips in small circles to the right, gradually making bigger circles. Repeat on the other side, six times each.
3. Finally, loosen up your ankles and feet. Flex your toes upwards and roll back onto your heels. Then roll forward onto the toes and raise your heels. Repeat five to six times.
1. While standing, cross your right ankle over the top of your left thigh. Then, bending the knee on your standing leg, drop your hips and tailbone down until you feel a stretch in your hips. Repeat on the other side.
2. Next, do a split-leg lunge. Bend your front leg with your back leg straight. Press your back heel into the ground, stretching your calves. Hold this position for up to 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
3. Extend your right arm in front of you. With your left hand, press down on the right finger tips moving downwards till you feel a mild forearm stretch. Then flip your palm upwards and press down on the right fingers to stretch the under-forearm area. Repeat on your left arm.
While running is a year-round sport, both experienced and novice runners tend to log more miles in warmer weather, which can sometimes lead to health issues. Stretching goes a long way to prevent that. Brooke Taylor of Taylored Fitness NY LTD, who trains marathoners, says, “Runners … have a tendency to develop tight hamstrings and IT bands. As a result they can start to develop knee problems or lower back problems.” To ward off injuries, Brooke recommends three stretches that will go a long way toward protecting your vulnerable muscles and joints.
Glute And Quads Warmer-Uppers
Start by standing tall. Take your left leg and cross it over your right leg, forming a 90 degree angle. Then drop your sitz bone back and slowly sit into the stretch, lengthening the glutes. Press down with your hands to deepen the stretch.
Then stand with your legs wide apart, and reach down toward your left toe, then your right.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Stand with your legs hip-distance apart. Transfer your weight to your left leg and, using your left hand, pull your right heel into your glute. Hold this stretch for 30–60 seconds. Once you find your balance, reach your free arm to the ceiling to counter-balance the weight shift. If you’re not completely steady, hold onto a wall or chair for support.
Seated Glute Stretch
Start sitting nice and tall in a chair with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your left leg and cross it over your right pulling it in towards your right sit bone. Then repeat the other side.
Once you’ve got these exercises down, they should add only five or 10 minutes to each workout, and they’ll potentially save you a lot of grief with muscle strains and injuries. Remember, warm up slowly, stretch before and after, and above all, stop if anything hurts. After all, it’s not just today’s workouts you want to enjoy — it’s every workout for summers to come.