Let’s get this stretching party started! This is the first in a to-be-weekly series of stretches. I have wanted to do this kind of post for a long time, and am finally getting it started. In fact, after a photo shoot with KMN last week, I’m even more excited – and will be organizing lots of photos and future posts today.
Please, please, PLEASE: Check out the Stretch of the Week: Start Here! post before you get started. And I must emphasize: Some stretches aren’t right for some people. If you are in pain, or something feels wrong, just stop. There will be another stretch next week. And if you don’t feel anything? Awesome. You don’t need the stretch. Move right along, and have a good day. If you love it – bookmark it! Over half a year, you’ll likely accumulate enough stretches to put together a regular post-workout stretching routine without any trouble at all.
Background: As a runner, my feet have a history of being tight. I talk here about using a tennis ball to roll out the bottom of my feet, and I battled a flare of plantar fasciitis earlier this year. Although I really don’t like having anyone touch my feet, on the rare occasion that KMN gave me a foot massage, the aftermath would be awesome. Seriously. My feet didn’t hurt day-to-day, but after rubbing out the tight spots a bit, they would feel totally rejuvenated.
Then, about six months ago, one of my yoga instructors set us up in a very simple foot stretch at the start of one of her classes. It seemed pretty silly at first, but once I was into the pose, I realized I could only hold it for about 15 seconds before I had to come out. Whether it was whim, intuition, or stretch-o-philia, I added this stretch to my daily stretching regimen. After about a month, I realized that I hardly needed the tennis ball any more – instead of finding a whole collection of sore spots on each foot, I would only find one or two, and could roll them out in a jiffy. In fact, my husband gave a foot massage the other day – and after a few minutes, he stopped: “You don’t really need this, do you?” Me: “Nope.”
And it’s all thanks to this stretch.
Contraindications: I wouldn’t recommend this stretch for anyone with acute pain in the plantar fascia (or anywhere along the bottom of the foot), or for those with pain in the furthest back (toward the ankle) toe joints.
Set-Up: Kneel on the floor (slightly soft surface)
Shins and tops of feet on floor
Knee in line with center of foot
Tush resting on feet
Torso sitting up tall and straight over tush
Stretch: Raise your tush slightly, flex your feet, and tuck your toes under (onto the floor). Keep your knees on the floor. EASE your weight back over your feet, sitting your tush back onto your feet. Hold.
Length of Hold: Start with a very short hold, perhaps 10-15 seconds. I think there are benefits to holding this pose for a slightly extended stretch (beyond the “normal” 10-20 seconds) – you can ease into it and allow the feet to relax gradually. For those with tight feet (OK, that’s just about everyone), this can take some time. I’d suggest slowly working your way towards a 60-90 second hold. My tolerance for this stretch has increased considerably, but still changes day-to-day. Some days my feet are quite tight, and I can handle only 60 seconds. Other days, I’m able to make it to 90 seconds.
Release: Lean weight forward, relax tops of feet onto ground, sit weight back again. Sigh deeply.
Modifications: This is a pretty intense stretch; feel free to lean forward slightly to shift a bit of the weight off your feet (watch for knee pain). Gradually try to work your way back, until you are sitting directly over your feet. If leaning forward is still too intense, then simply sit in a comfortable position on the floor, take one foot into your lap, and gently pull back on the toes (toes toward knees) to stretch the bottom of the foot.
Go ahead – sit down, and give it a try! Then give me some feedback. [Unless you just got out of bed.]
Do you think you have tight arches/feet?
How did the stretch feel while you were doing it? How did your feet feel afterward?
Take it, or leave it?
[This is for my own data gathering purposes. I won’t be offended if you don’t like it.]