Written by Antonia Kellner
Stretching is important at any age, with any lifestyle and under any circumstance. I’m
not stretching the truth though, when I say that for teens whose spring sports schedules
have been interrupted, staying limber is important to keep them nimbler. In addition,
loosening the muscles can really give a leg up when it comes to overall injury
prevention and athletic performance in any athletic situation.
While stretching from head to toe is important, most spring outdoor activities that teens
can safely participate in currently, like running, hiking, biking and basketball in the
driveway, require hip and leg flexibility to maintain a strong, yet malleable foundation.
Further, continuing to condition for a solid base will provide the stability and springiness
necessary to support the often rigorous and opposing movements occurring in upper
body when practice and play schedules return to normal.
Set aside time daily to try this 5-minute leg limbering sequence. All you need is a yoga
mat and two blocks.
Stretch Your Legs
Step feet hips width distance apart. Place blocks to either sides of the feet at their
tallest setting. Bring hands to prayer at the heart. Inhaling, reach arms overhead and
lead with the sternum as you hinge at your hips, folding forward over the legs. Place
both hands on blocks and take 3-5 rounds of breath, with each inhalation, lengthening
the spine and with each exhalation coming to a deeper fold.
On an inhale, come up to standing with arms overhead and exhale into a forward bend
once again, this time taking the blocks down to the next lowest setting. Take 3-5 rounds
of breath, breathing in for length and breathing out to build flexibility.
Repeat these steps twice more, first with the blocks on their lowest setting and, if
possible, a final time without the assistance of blocks.
Shoot from the Hip
Inhale arms overhead and exhale folding forward and down, placing hands on the
blocks at their highest setting once more. Shifting the weight into the RIGHT foot, lift
the LEFT leg up and back to hip height and step it to the back of the mat coming into a
low lunge with the LEFT knee down. Slowly rock forward until you feel a productive
stretch in the LEFT hip flexor, settling in for 3-5 breaths. Then, move the hips back,
straightening the front knee. Bring the toes toward the face at the seat hovers above
the back heel, pausing for 3-5 breaths. Finally, slowly rock forward and back 3 times,
inhaling as you come forward and exhaling as you move back. On a 4 th rock forward,
shift the weight into the RIGHT foot once more coming back into a forward fold.
Repeat on LEFT side.
In the Home Stretch
To release, bend both knees and bring the seat to heels, gazing forward on an inhale.
Exhaling, lower the heels and forward fold for a final time. Let the next inhale bring you
standing, arms overhead and then bring hands into heart center.
Don’t Get Hamstrung!
Stretching, like any other exercise, gets easier with practice. So, if these stretches
seemed challenging the first few times you’ve tried them — loosen up! Patience and
practice will improve your performance. It takes only 5 minutes daily to stretch in order
to have flexible legs to stand on.