Stretch – Animals do it without a second thought – watch a cat! It is one of the most important components of a daily routine but often overlooked. So what does stretching achieve? There are many benefits so here are a few of the most important ones. It helps prepare the body for the day and the work you are about to do by lengthening muscle fibres and bringing in an oxygenated and nutrient rich blood supply. You warm the body, increase flexibility and this preparation helps to reduce the risk of injury which is a very good thing! Don’t stretch cold muscles, warm them up by moving – throw a few (gentle) dance moves maybe…. Before and after a day on the boat would be a great way to treat yourself. Stretch with love…. don’t just throw the moves, do it and do it well – you alone will reap the benefits of this investment of time.
In my book stretching should be a gentle experience, an overstretched muscle will protest and in extreme cases may tear which is not the aim! You should be able to feel a stretch but if it hurts your body is telling you to stop…. so if it hurts take the stretch back a few millimetres until you feel the pull but no pain. Try to maintain equal flexibility side to side – the body likes to be balanced.
Now …. what to stretch?? Main muscles should be the minimum and you should hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
A basic stretch programme might look like this – feel free to adapt it….relax into the stretches and enjoy….
1 Full body stretch – hands above your head stretch your fingers to heaven, then palms to heaven.
2 Back and shoulder stretch – Imagine a huge bear has popped over for a hug, circle your arms around him remember he is huge so reach right round, curl your back, tuck your tailbone under and drop your head. Feel that love!
3 Quadriceps stretch – Standing up grab a friend (or a chair etc) for support, bend your right knee and take your right foot towards your bottom. Hold your foot with your right hand or grab a towel and lasso it and gently pull it further towards your bottom pressing your right hip forward and ensuring your right knee is behind the static left leg!! And no this is not a game of Twister!! Repeat on the left.
4 Calf stretch – Both feet back on the floor. Two stretches for these muscles. First take one foot back then bend both knees as though you are going to sit…and then forgot the tv remote…. hold the position in mid sit. You should feel in a stretch in the lower portion of your leg. Stand then extend your leg further behind and bending the knee in front straighten the extended leg, the stretch should be in the upper part of the calf. Repeat both sides.
5 Hamstring stretch – Stand again and, placing your right leg in front of you, flex your foot and put your heel on the floor. Stretch the back of the leg by placing your hands on the left leg for support and slightly arching your back. Repeat both sides.