3 Post-Run Back StretchesRunning and other high-impact workouts can, overtime, take a toll on the health of your spine. These exercises cause compression on your vertebrae, which protect your spine. Some compression can be good as it keeps the back flexible and strong. However, too much compression too often can cause wear and tear that may lead to injury and severe pain. To avoid pain and damage to your vertebrae and spine, be sure to stretch before and especially after any high-impact, strenuous workout like running or sports. This stretching will keep your back flexible and help prevent injury and loss of mobility. The key to good, healthy stretching is breath, so be sure to breathe deeply, focusing on the areas of your body you’re trying to stretch.
- Lower Back Elongator (Or Child’s Pose, in Yoga Terms): Starting in an all-fours position, lower all the way down so that your chest rests on your knees and your buttocks rests on your heels, letting the tops of your feet lay flat. Place your forehead on the floor and stretch your arms out in front of you, palms flat on the floor as well. For a deeper stretch, you may try spreading your knees wide and letting your chest fall in between them. This is a passive stretch, so there’s no need for bouncing or straining. Breathe deeply into your lower back and remain in this position for 10 to 20 breaths. The Benefits: Relax lower back muscles, stretch the spine and improve flow of nutrients to the brain.
- Spine Roll: From a standing position, with feet hips-width apart, interlace your fingers behind your head, keeping your fingers and elbows relaxed. As you exhale, round forward, bending your knees and allowing your elbows to fold in toward your face. While bent over, inhale deeply into your ribs. Then, on your next exhale, slowly roll back up, keeping your chin to your chest. Repeat this roll 5 times, always moving on the exhale and staying still on an inhale. If you find a spot that seems particularly tense, stay there for a minute and breathe into it before moving on. The Benefits: Increase blood circulation, spine flexibility and muscle control around the spinal column.
- Spinal Twist: Laying flat on your back, bring your right knee to your chest while the left leg stays straight out on the ground. Twist, letting your right knee fall over your left leg, while extending your right arm out to the right, with your head facing to the right as well. It's ok if your right knee does not touch the ground, because it’s more important to keep your right shoulder on the ground at all times. For an added stretch, you may use your left hand to gently pull your right knee toward the ground. Breathe into your lower back for at least 5 to 10 breaths. Switch sides. The Benefits: Increased spinal flexibility, decreased tension down length of spine, opening of lumbar area to allow more blood flow.
Always be sure to practice these stretches gently and carefully. And speak with your doctor or chiropractor before beginning any stretching or workout regimen.