Tis the season for outdoor family activities: Pick-up football games, ultimate frisbee, scenic jogs, mountain hikes through the foliage… But if your body is not prepared for these seasonal activities — hello pulled hamstring and neck spasms.
That’s why we want to take the first week of this month to focus on stretching those tightly wound quads, calves, hamstrings, and back; because you can’t keep it moving on Monday if, well, you can’t move.
By increasing your flexibility, you can improve your athletic ability, increase your range of motion, and reduce the chance of future injury. But stretching can be tricky, especially if you’re a beginner or a little out of practice. That’s why it helps to have the whole family involved. Besides the fact that misery loves company (just kidding), a helping hand can make stretching a bit easier.
We compiled a list of positions and poses that are designed for the whole family to do together. Although they’re not particularly taxing or strenuous, you should always start slow with a brief warm up: Jog in place for a few minutes, or just long enough to get the muscles warm. Remember to start slow, and acknowledge that everyone needs to go at their own pace.
There are few stretches more relaxing than child pose. This simple yet restful stretch is a nice way to start your routine because it centers and calms the brain. Begin on your hands and knees and spread your knees a bit more than shoulder width apart. Sit up straight. On an exhalation, bow forward, bending your torso so that it rests between your thighs. Finish with your arms extended outwards and palms facing down. Relax your lower back and hold for a minute.
Strengthen your abdominals while stretching out your spine with the aptly named cat-cow pose. Start on all fours with the spine and neck level and a flat back. Begin with cow position: Take a long breath as you drop your belly down towards the mat. Arch your back slightly and lift your chin upwards. Next move into cat pose: On your exhale, draw your belly up and round out your spine with your rounded back pointing up towards the ceiling. Repeat 5 – 10 times.
Simple, yet effective. Arms wide engages the arm and shoulder muscles. Stand with arms outstretched and thumbs pointing down. Slowly push arms back as if you were squeezing a ball between your shoulder blades. Gently rotate your arms so the thumbs are directed upwards and hold. Return to first position and repeat.
Partner Back Stretch
Perfect for a parent-kid duo, the partner back stretch will feel so relaxing that you may never want to let go. Stand facing each other and hold hands. Step back a few paces until your backs are slightly rounded (bend at the hips) and pull hands until you start to feel the stretch. Maintain the stretch for 30 seconds, slowly moving apart as you feel more comfortable with the stretch.
Partner Hamstring Stretch
This one is pretty straight forward, but boy does it get the job done. One partner lies face up on the mat, left leg bent at the knee, right leg extended straight up towards the ceiling. Their partner holds the extended right leg and gently pushes (stress the gently) to increase the stretch, holding for at least 10 seconds. Afterwards, the lying partner pushes the heel of their right leg into their partner’s hand for an additional 5 seconds. Repeat with the same leg for a deeper stretch. Switch legs and then positions with your partner.