Six Post-Workout Stretches to Prevent Injury
Words and photos by Rebecca Parsons
Whether you're racing, surfing, doing a downwinder or just out for a casual paddle, stretching should be an integral part of your routine. While many acknowledge the importance of pre-workout stretching, post-workout stretches are often forgotten. Spending an extra five to ten minutes after a paddle can do wonders for your body and even prevent injuries. We've rounded up six simple stretches to help keep you out of the doctor's office and on the water.
IT Band Stretch. The IT Band is a layer of connective tissue that runs from your hip to your shin bone--it's primary function is knee stabilization. This simple stretch is done standing up. Cross your left leg in front of your right and bend at the waist to your left (opposite your foot). Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times per side.
Pull-Throughs. An unfortunate side effect of paddling is tight shoulders. This simple stretch can help alleviate muscular imbalance and keep your shoulder problems at bay. Maintaining a wide grip, begin with the paddle at your waist and slowly bring it up to your chest. Keeping the paddle close to your body, slowly rotate your shoulders externally and lift the paddle over and behind your head until your arms are fully extended. Gradually bring the paddle back to the starting position and repeat 6 to 8 times. As you become more comfortable with the stretch, your range of motion should improve and you can shorten your grip on the paddle.
Hamstring Stretch. The hamstring is actually a collection of three different muscles, the combination of which is responsible for knee flexion, lateral rotation, and medial rotation of the lower leg. This stretch is particularly important as it can help prevent back pain and injury, as well as loosen up tight hip flexors. This stretch is simple and can be done with an exercise band or a surf leash. Lay flat on your back and loop the leash around the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg as straight as possible, lift your leg straight into the air and pull until you feel a stretch against the back of your upper leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times per leg.
Spinal Twist. This relaxing stretch targets the lower back, glutes, and the piriformis muscle. Additionally, it works to detoxify the body as it stretches and massages the digestive system. Begin in a cross-legged position and slowly lift the left leg over the right, placing your foot flat on the ground. Slowly rotate your body, using your right arm to brace your left thigh and knee. Breathe deeply and evenly and hold the position for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Extended Arm Rotations. This exercise works to loosen up shoulder muscles, increase blood circulation to the area, prevent muscle knots, and relieve shoulder joint pain. Simply stand with your arms extended straight out on both sides. Slowly rotate your arms in small circles, but refrain from rotating your wrists or elbows. As you become comfortable with the stretch, slowly pick up the pace, but be sure to maintain proper posture throughout the duration of the exercise.
Figure-Four Stretch. This exercise works to stretch the piriformis muscle, which can help alleviate any numbness you may experience along the lower back, glutes, legs, and feet. Using your paddle for balance, take your right heel in your hand and cross it over your left leg. Bend into a squatting position and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times per side. This stretch can also be done lying down if balance is an issue.