Caution: If you are walking outside please take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection as advised by the CDC and/or your local department of health. Also be sure to practice social distancing and stay at least six feet away from others as you walk and exercise.
We are all practicing safety during this pandemic, which of course means staying home, and social distancing. Undoubtedly, we are becoming more sedentary as we adjust to our “new normal.” Fortunately, the nicer spring weather will afford many opportunities for people to leave the confines of their house for some outdoor activities. Taking neighborhood walks can certainly be helpful in breaking the monotony of staying indoors, especially with the spring weather upon us. We should also practice stretching and warm ups prior to starting these activities.
It’s best to break up long walks into multiple shorter ones. If you have been sedentary during the winter, instead of walking 2-3 miles at a time, break it up into multiple 1-mile segments and perform several times a day. Especially if you are walking on a hilly area in your neighborhood, you may be more prone to gastrocnemius (calf) muscle and hamstring muscle (large muscle in the back of your thigh) tightening and stiffness. Here are some good stretches to start doing each day as part of your pre and post walking routine.
Gastrocnemius Muscle Stretching:
You may perform each stretch for at least 20 seconds, repeat 4x, and perform twice each day.
Of note with this stretch: the leg that is BEHIND YOU is the leg that is being stretched. Your feet MUST point straight towards the wall in the 12 o’clock position, do not turn your toes outwards at all. Once your feet are in place, start with your weight back and no pressure against the wall. Keeping your BACK LEG STRAIGHT, start to BEND THE FRONT LEG SLOWLY, you will start to feel the stretch on the back calf muscle. As above, hold at least 20 seconds, repeat 4x, and perform twice per day on both legs.
Hamstring Muscle Stretching:
I teach hamstring muscle stretching that avoids flexion and bending of the lower back and spine. If you have “sciatic” pain, it is possible you could have a disc injury, and stretching/exercises with a neutral spine is recommended.
This picture shows that the leg that is not being stretched is bent with the foot flat on the floor. For a stronger stretch, lie this leg completely flat and straight on the floor. You will feel a much stronger stretch on the side you are stretching.
An alternate way to perform this the standing hamstring stretch:
If you are to perform this stretch standing, it is important not to put your foot too high on a step. This will make you hunch forward which is not good for your back. You should actually stand completely tall, and then push your belly button forward. This will increase the stretch. Then, you can lean forward slightly while maintaining this position.
For either of these stretches, hold each stretch for 20 seconds, repeat 4x each leg and perform twice per day.
Hopefully these stretches will help you remain pain and injury free as you get outdoors to walk. Remember that just as important as stretching before you exercise, so is stretching after your activity. Repeat these stretches after your walks to keep your muscles loose and to prevent stiffness. If you have any unusual pain or something just doesn’t feel right be sure to give us a call so we can evaluate your pain and ensure your stretching/walking routine is proper. Best of luck and stay safe and healthy!
Joseph Rifino, PT
Hamstring Stretch w/Strap
Standing Hamstring Stretch