After taking a week off with back pains, I had no problem with my triathlon Saturday despite being a miserably slow biker/runner. This pose above (modified and considerably less elegant) was the pose that really made a difference.
The back pain isn’t really pain anymore, it’s tightness just around the lower part of my back. Over the last two years I’ve worked consistently on improving my flexibility with a little bit of success. Traditional stretches along with yoga have vastly improved my hip flexibility and the looseness of my achilles tendon and hamstrings along with my lower back.
It was this flexibility that has helped me recover so quickly, and it is the experience of trying a variety of stretching sequences that helped me find a stretch that worked that particular area of my back.
What have I learned in that time? Five things have really stuck out to me:
1) Go Slow –
This is my advice for people starting anything. When I took up running it was less than a mile a week and I took 3 months before I was doing a 5k. For stretching sometimes success is measured in tenths of inches on a sitting reach.
2) Be Gentle –
But not too gentle. Stretch well enough that you feel looser afterwards. Take time to enter more difficult poses. Start with bent knees in downward facing dog or when touching your toes. Gradually increase the difficulty being very conscious of you body. Gentle approaches take months not minutes and don’t leave you injured along the way.
3) Measure –
Touch your toes or figure out what your sitting reach is. Check how close to doing the splits you are or how close you can pull your heels in. Find something to measure and celebrate every little victory.
4) More than One –
Stretch more than one muscle group at a time. Find exercises that stretch groups of muscles together. If you are trying to become better at touching your toes (a feat I still haven’t managed) work on a number of other stretches that improve your flexibility in tangential ways.
5) Dynamic Stretches –
Find dynamic stretches that aide with the static stretches. Lunges, arm circles, leg circles, along with many different movements help release tension, prevent injury, and lengthen muscles. Stretches that move parts of your body offer a different type of muscle motion that truly complements static stretches.
Hopefully, you’ll find this helpful.