Sometimes I just need to stretch. I grew up with my mom running 5 miles a day and never doing any sort of stretching...so I just figured that I didn't really need to stretch. Wrong! I don't know how she does it because I need to stretch!
Being a runner and a dancer, my legs are so very important to me. (Have you figured that out yet since all my workouts focus on the legs?) Nothing is worse than having to hobble around on sore legs, which quite frankly happens to me way too often. So here are a few of my favorite stretches...mostly centering on the legs. (I tried to find pictures of other people doing the stretches, but could only find a couple as some are pretty dance-specific stretches...nuts!)
Ballroom dancing requires great articulation of the feet as well as super strong ankles. This stretch is my favorite for keeping my feet and ankles loose. Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you- your body is making an "L". Point your ankles and feet and hold for at least 15
Then flex your toes while keeping your feet pointed. Hold for at least 15 seconds.
Next flex your feet while keeping your toes flexed as well. Hold for at least 15 seconds.
Finally, you guessed it- point your toes while keeping your feet flexed. Hold for at least 15 seconds. I usually repeat the process about 3 times and afterwards feel no tension in my feet and ankles and am ready to cha cha! :)
On to the thighs! I stretch my quads lying on the ground as to not aggravate my knee problems. Lie on your stomach and pull one foot up to meet your behind, making sure your foot is pointed. Hold for at least 15 seconds and then switch feet. I do each leg at least twice. Again, some people do this stretch while standing up, which is fine, but I like to do it on the floor as it helps keep proper positioning...not to mention balance!
Now this stretch, while it uses your legs, really works your core. Stand with feet wide apart- the wider the stance, the harder it will be...however don't be a chicken! You can always bring your stance in if it is too difficult and widen it if it is
too easy. Then turn 1/4 to your left- your feet will look like they are on the same track, the right one behind a bit. Lift your back heel off of the ground and then your front toe. You should be balancing on your front heel and your back ball of the foot. Think of your center pulling up towards the ceiling to give you balance...like a giant fish hook has caught your sternum and is pulling it to the sky. Hold for at least 15 seconds, not letting the front toes or back heel touch the ground. Then, make a 1/2 turn to your right and repeat (your right heel on the ground and your left ball of foot only). Hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat as needed. Again, this is a nice stretch for the legs, however it really tones the core muscles...and likewise will be easier the stronger your center gets. (FYI: This is a "neutral position" in the International Foxtrot...so if you are thinking of becoming a champion ballroom dancer, try this in 3" heels!)
And finally a really great all-over stretch that really helps to loosen my lower abs after a million crunches is this: kneel on the ground with your legs hip-width apart, thighs perpendicular to the ground. Then reach your arms behind you and grab the arch of both of your feet. Let your head hang back and hold for at least 15 seconds. Repeat as needed. This really opens my hips, stretches my lower abdomen, and front of my thighs.
What are you favorite stretches?