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3.09.2005

Travel Fit Tip: Stretching for Walkers

We could spend hours (and megabytes) lecturing on stretching and different types of stretches. As a walker, however, you should focus on three specific areas at a minimum: hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves.

You should perform these stretches following your walks. Total stretching time as described here: six to eight minutes.

Hip Flexors

Hip flexors run vertically down the front of your hip. Tight hip flexors can lead to lower back pain, as the flexors pull your pelvis forward out of alignment. Stretching them is easy, and I've personally found that daily stretching for 45 seconds on each side led to almost immediate relief from the lower back pain that I was experiencing. To stretch:

  • Begin standing next to a wall or table, so that you have something to grab if you lose your balance.
  • Take a wide step backwards with your left foot, and lower your left knee to the ground.
  • Your right knee should be directly above your right ankle, so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor. If it's not, adjust your stance appropriately.
  • Sit up tall, eyes forward, abs tight. Concentrate on an imaginary string attached to the top of your head that's pulling you straight up.
  • For a deeper stretch, reach your left hand (same hand as the back leg) up in the air.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Repeat opposite side.
Hamstrings

Hamstrings are the muscles that run vertically down the back of your legs. A pulled hamstring may be one of the most painful injuries you'll ever experience, and keeping them stretched out the best way to prevent these injuries. There are dozens of good hamstring stretches. For simplicity, I'll focus on a standing hamstring stretch.
  • Begin standing near a chair or low table.
  • Place your right foot (heel) onto the table.
  • Slowly lower your upper body towards your leg, bending at the hips.
  • To take the stretch deeper, clasp your ankle and gently pull yourself further down.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Repeat opposite side.
Calves

Last but not least, calves need stretching too. Tight calves can rapidly lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful condition in which the connective tissue in your arches becomes inflamed. To stretch your calves:
  • Begin standing facing the wall, with both hands on the wall.
  • Flex your right knee.
  • Step backwards with your left foot, with your weight leaning forward onto your hands.
  • Try to plant your back heel onto the ground.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Repeat opposite side.
Experiment with different positions, leaning forward more or less, and alternatively bending and straightening your back leg. These different positions will target different spots throughout your calf and Achilles tendon.

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