Although many of us will have much different-looking holidays this season, some of us will still be hitting the road. If you've opted to avoid plane travel and a road trip is on your calendar, it's important to remember the effects sitting for long periods of time can have on the body.
"Muscles get tight thanks to prolonged time sitting, so whether you're behind a desk, in a car, or on an airplane, taking regular movement breaks can keep you feeling fresh in both body and mind," explained Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) and Director of Education for YogaSix, Kelly Turner. "When I'm stuck in a car for anything over an hour, I make sure to take time to stretch and release the muscles that tend to shorten or contract," she added.
Turner explained when she herself is taking a trip, she likes to focus on stretching the body from the ground up, meaning opening up the calves, quads and hip flexors, back, and then chest.
In addition to taking stretch breaks to ward off a stiff neck, back, or legs, breaks are the safest way to ensure mental freshness and stave off road fatigue. Try sticking to comfortable attire like leggings and hoodies such as the UA Rival Fleece Embroidered Hoodie ($54, originally $60) so when you do stop for breaks you're not restricted and can stretch freely.
If you're about to log some miles, try these expert-approved stretches to fight stiffness and feel refreshed.
To stretch the calves:
- Step your right foot about two to three feet in front of the left. To maximize stability, visualize your feet on railroad tracks versus a tight rope, explained Turner. Bend gently into your front knee to create a stretch in your back calf muscle. Hold the stretch for a few long, slow breaths as you visualize your calf muscle melting towards the floor. Repeat on the other side.
To stretch the quads and hip flexors:
- Using the car for stability, stand on your left foot, reaching behind you with your right hand to catch your right ankle. Draw your right heel in towards your tush. To send the stretch deeper into the quad and further up your hip flexor, slowly draw your right knee back towards your left. Stay for five to 10 breaths, and then gently release before switching to the other side.
To stretch the back:
- To help decompress the spine, rest both hands on your car at about hood-height. Slowly walk away from the car, until your torso is close to parallel with the floor. "This is essentially a downward-facing dog variation that can be done against any wall or stable structure," explained Turner. Allow your head and heart to melt between your upper arm bones to stretch and release your back, as well as lengthen out your hamstrings. Stay for five to 10 breaths before slowly rising back to stand. "It's a great stretch for your entire posterior chain," she noted.
To stretch the chest:
- "This is another great stretch that uses the car or another stable object," Turner noted. To start, place your right hand on the car about chest height around the window or roof of the car if shorter. Leave your hand where it is, and slowly begin to spin counter-clockwise — away from the car. "Stop when a good stretching sensation moves into your right chest/pec muscle, and remain for a few breaths," Turner said. Slowly unwind, and repeat on the other side.