Pre/post cardio stretches to decrease stiffness

Lately, walking (and sometimes walk running) has been my “go to” for cardio. I love it because I can do it anywhere in almost any clothes and it takes very little planning, which is great given my unpredictable schedule.

Usually my walks are 3 to 4 miles, but this past weekend my fiance and I took a 7ish mile urban hike through Tacoma.

Walking is pretty much the most functional movement you could do, but regardless, by the end of it, I felt…not bad…but a bit off.

My feet were on the verge of sensitive and I was pretty aware of the stiffness in my upper back and shoulders.

Did I regret it?

Of course not, but it was enough for me to get on the ground and do a little bit of stretching and gentle movement to minimize any (albeit minor) compensations that might have snuck into my movements as a result of fatigue during my walk.

Because that’s the thing about cardio. Most of it – cycling/ walking/ running/ ellipticaling/ stairmastering – is not bad. In fact, the human skeleton is designed to walk and run, so some of it is arguably incredibly functional.

However, it IS repetitive.

And the one thing that we know about movement patterns and repetitive motion is that the longer you do something, the more efficient your body will be a doing that action, because you’ve taken the time to pattern it in.

So if you do it with any small compensations, then those compensations will become more apparent the longer you do it.

For example, if you don’t have great upper back mobility, because you spend a lot of timing writing emails to people on the internet (guilty as charged), then when you bend over a bike, your upper back will start to talk at you, because it already isn’t moving enough and your position on the bike will make that more obvious.

Same thing for when you go for a walk. If you lack mobility in your upper back, then that movement will have to come from somewhere else – often times the low back or the knees.

And the thing is you won’t feel it after 1 mile, but you might feel it after 6.

And if you run? Well, you’ll feel things faster, because the impact is greater.

So the answer clearly isn’t to quit what you’re doing, but it does make a good argument for taking some time before and after cardio to open up some of those more restricted areas.

So with that in mind, I’ve created a quick stretching routine that you can do before or after cardio to improve mobility and reduce stiffness.

All that you need to do it is 6 minutes and a rolled up yoga mat or bath towel.

Easy, right?

Pre Running Stretches & Flexibility Exercises

Pre Running Stretches & Flexibility Exercises

Stretching Sequence

Upper Back Release

pre running stretches

Hamstring Stretch

pre running stretches

Figure 4

pre running stretches

Quad Opener

pre running stretches