Written by Jori Hamilton, Guest Writer
When you start a new exercise routine or you already have a regimen, it’s easy to leave flexibility and mobility training out. You might be focused on building muscle or burning calories, which isn’t a bad thing. But, if you’re not giving your mobility the attention it deserves, you also might not be working out to your full potential.
Flexibility and mobility training are hugely important when you’re working out, or even if you just want to lead an active lifestyle. This type of training reduces stress on the body, making you less prone to injuries. If you plan on staying active for a long time and want to make sure you can still go for a run or catch a wave when you’re older, this kind of training is crucial.
As a surfer or any type of athlete, being more flexible and mobile will also improve your performance. You’ll feel more in control and be able to maneuver your body more freely.
Incorporating flexibility exercises into your routine is easier than you might think. Not only will your body benefit, but taking the time to properly stretch and improve your mobility can be a nice respite for your mental health, too.
Not sure how to get started? We’ve got you covered with four awesome exercises for flexibility and mobility.
1. Cat-Cow Stretches
This particular exercise won’t have you mooing or meowing (thankfully). But, it can improve the health and mobility of your spine. One survey found that 65 million people in the U.S. have had an experience with back pain. If you live an active lifestyle, you might be at greater risk of that kind of discomfort.
You can alleviate some of that pain and give your spine the support and stretch it needs with this simple dynamic stretch.
To properly do cat-cow stretches, follow these steps:
- Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale solely while dropping your stomach to the floor.
- Reach your chest up during that deep breath, forming a “U”-shape with your spine.
- Hold the pose for one or two seconds.
- Exhale while rounding your spine upward.
- Create a “curve” with your back, positioning yourself like a scared cat.
- Hold the pose for one or two seconds and return to cow pose.
Go back and forth between these two positions 10-15 times while maintaining steady breathing.
2. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Have you ever “pulled” a hamstring or felt a sharp pain while on your board or even going for a run? Hamstring pain isn’t uncommon, but it’s usually caused by not stretching properly.
A standing hamstring stretch can help to loosen up those muscles enough that getting injured is far less likely. Plus, it’s easy to do with a few simple steps:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your side.
- Exhale and bend forward at the hips.
- Lower your head to the floor, making sure your neck is relaxed.
- Wrap your arms around the backs of your legs.
- Hold the position for up to two minutes.
- Bend your knees, round your spine, and roll up slowly.
You can repeat this process several times, just make sure to breathe slowly and deeply throughout. You don’t want to become dizzy while you’re bent forward or increase your chance of falling.
3. Triceps Stretch
It’s not uncommon for certain types of athletes to regularly experience tricep injuries. The most common of those injuries include tendonitis, a ruptured tendon, or a sprain. While you can’t always prevent injury, stretching the triceps properly can greatly reduce your risk.
A basic tricep stretch is simple, and you can do it from a kneeling position. Once your knees are on the floor, follow these steps:
- Extend your arms over your head.
- Bend your right elbow.
- Reach your right hand down to touch the top of your back.
- Set your left hand on top of your right elbow.
- Gently pull your right arm further, without causing pain.
- Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.
This is one of those simple exercises that can be done at almost any time. Don’t wait for a workout to get in a good tricep stretch. It’s something you can do first thing in the morning to feel looser and prevent injuries throughout the day.
4. Ankle Mobility
When you’re on a board, the last thing you want is to lose your balance or not have enough mobility in your ankles to move where you want.
- Stand next to a wall and place one hand against it for support.
- Rock slowly forward onto your toes into a tip-toe position.
- Hold for one second before rocking back to your heels, raising your toes into the air.
- Repeat 10 times.
As you can see, most of these exercises don’t take much time. You can include them in your daily wellness routine by doing them first thing in the morning. You might be surprised by how much better a few simple stretches can make you feel as you start your day.
It’s also important to stretch properly before you work out or do something particularly active. If you haven’t considered it yet, try creating a space for a home gym. They’re becoming more popular as more people start to ditch expensive gym memberships. Having a space of your own can motivate you to exercise more often – and do it safely. You don’t need any special equipment to do these flexibility and mobility exercises, but when you have a home gym you can bring in whatever pieces of equipment best suit you for other types of workouts.
Whether you love cardio, want to build muscle, or you’re just an active person, incorporating flexibility and mobility training into your life should be a priority. You’ll reduce your risk of injury, improve your performance, and can even cause less stress on your body, which will allow you to stay active for many years to come.