Just thinking of a coast-to-coast (or continent-to-continent) flight, frozen in the same sitting position for hours makes us feel stiff. It doesn’t take long for your ass to numb, your hamstrings to tighten and your back to transmit dull throbs of painful communication – the body’s version of Morse code, sending SOS signals alerting you that something’s not right.
While you might not have the opportunity to course correct your body in transit, once the wheels have touched the terminal and you’ve made your way through customs, it’s time to get your body right.
“Your hips are compacted. Your spine is compacted. Your spine begins to curve. Your powerhouse muscles – your glutes, your quads, and your thighs – all connect straight into the hips. All of those muscles are shortened when you’re sitting,” says Kate Marshall, owner and instructor at Vancouver’s Oxygen Fitness in Yaletown.
Marshall says that in order to lengthen and get the blood moving to these muscles, you have to stretch out after a long flight – no questions asked. Here are Marshall’s five simple stretches that will have your spine feeling supple after a long flight.
The Forward Fold
“This one is stretching through your calves, your hamstrings, your backside, glutes and all the way up through your spine. It's actually separating your vertebrae and giving you a really nice stretch through the muscles up your spine.”
Forward Fold with Hands Behind Your Back
“This is intensifying that stretch through your hamstrings and glutes. It's also getting into your upper shoulders and deltoids. Again, that is just a way to intensify that stretch, taking you into that forward fold and supported inversion a little bit more. Super energizing.”
Traditional Runner’s Stretch
“Right foot up, right hand grasping the ankle. You're pulling your heel into your glute. This is really stretching from your abdomen all the way down through your quad – that big huge muscle in the front, through your hip flexors, all the way down to the knee. “Then we extended our opposite arm to sky, which just creates a little more space from that right side knee all the way through your left side shoulder.”
Ankle Over Thigh
“This one is just ankle over thigh and then sinking back down into your glute, keeping your chest up. You're feeling that stretch in the backside glute of whichever leg is raised. Everything from hamstrings up into your spine is extending. “You can also do it in a relaxed seated position. If you are on a plane, you can easily do it without having to stand up.”
Low Lunge, Knee on Earth
“A low lunge with one foot planted firmly on the ground, front knee at a 90‑degree angle, back knee behind you with your leg extended. That's stretching through your quadriceps all the way up into your hip flexors and your front side abdomen. Think of your hip flexors as the heart of your powerhouse, the heart of your body – everything stems from there.”