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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

AutoMOBILTY: Stretches and Mobility Work for Road Trips and Commutes

Many of us spend a large portion of time in the car. Whether it's a weekend trip, work commute, or family cross-country road trip we've all felt the aches and pains of sitting in the same position in an uncomfortable car. Here are a few tips to try next time you're in a car for a long period of time.

Warning: I don't like that I have to tell you this as it should be common sense but...please be safe and use discretion if you do these while actually driving. I would recommend these if you're at a red light or stuck in traffic rather than in dodging traffic on the interstate.

Dosage: Try to do these stretches once every hour or two while in the car.

In the car: 

Pec Stretch: The arms forward/reaching posture (aka gripping the steering wheel) is a recipe for disaster for chest muscle tightness. Let's get that chest opened up.
  1. Reach your hand behind the passenger seat and anchor your arm
  2. Rotate body towards the left
  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds (if you have a partner to drive, would be good to get both arms every so often, but if not, it's okay just to do the right arm)
Glute Bridge/Hollow Hold: Constant seated position for hours and hours will lead to tight hip flexors; do this to fire the glutes and counteract that tightness....please don't do this with your foot on the gas or if you're whipping in and out of traffic. 
  1. Ground both feet evenly with as much knee extension as possible
  2. Lift the hips and butt off the seat while pushing your shoulders into the seat back by contracting your core and glutes
  3. Feel the stretch through the quads and hip flexors and the relief of pressure on the low-back
  4. Hold this for a couple seconds or as long as time permits (reps are also beneficial)
Neck Position & Chin Tucks: MoveU does a great job of explaining this, so I'm not going to try and re-word it at all. Check out their Instagram post here.

Upper Trap and Levator Scap Stretch: Remember the upper cross syndrome I talked about before? Well here it is at work again. If you're sitting like in the beginning of the video above (forward head posture or "text-neck"), your upper trap and levator scapulae might be barking at you.
  1. Anchor your right or left hand under your butt 
  2. For upper trap, just side-bend your head to the opposite side of your hand (touch your ear to your shoulder)
  3. For levator scap, drop your chin to your chest and look towards your opposite knee (head follows); you should feel a stretch down the back of your neck (might feel a pinching sensation)
  4. Hold each movement for 10-20 seconds for 2-3 reps
  5. Repeat on other side

Pit-stop: gas station, weigh station, rest stop, etc.; get out and MOVE

Shoulder IR Stretch: Another factor of the reaching posture, pinching of the anterior capsule of the shoulder.
  1. Stand with your back to the open door 
  2. Place hand behind your back and grip the door frame (palm facing the door)
  3. While gripping the door, take a half of a step away form the door (or as much as you can) to feel a stretch in the front of the shoulder
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds
  5. Switch sides

Piriformis Stretch: Another way to combat the tight hip flexors from sitting for long periods of time; this strap-like muscle in your butt is a hassle but is important to relieve and stretch to prevent low back pain. The piriformis is a key component of sciatic nerve pain because it can compress that nerve when the muscle gets tight.
Variability in piriformis and sciatic nerve 

  1. Standing, place one knee up on the hood of your car, bags of salt at the gas station, table, bench, etc. and lay the lower leg flat on the surface (see photo to right)
  2. From here we're going to lean our trunk in three directions i) outside of the knee, ii) on top of the knee, and iii) towards the foot
  3. Hold each leaning position for 10 seconds; repeat 2-3 times
  4. Switch sides
Calf Stretch on Tire: Ankle mobility is a key underlying feature of many movements that we don't usually think about: squats, cleans, snatches...really anything that includes hip and knee flexion. Do a little calf stretch on the tire while you pump your gas to help keep the ankles healthy. 3x20 seconds each side.

Extras: non-mobility things that may help you with your travel

1. Compression Socks: doesn't have to be anything fancy, there is just research out there that supports the use of compression socks to reduce edema and blood pooling during flights and long car rides.
2. Water: yes, you may have to make more bathroom stops, but that shouldn't be your reason to not drink water. 12-15 oz/hour. You'd be surprised how little water you may drink on a long car ride.
3. Ankle pumps/ABCs: if you don't want to spend money on compression socks, it's important to fight gravity and get the blood flowing and circulating in your lower legs and feet. Simple ankle pumps or drawing the ABCs with your feet may suffice to facilitate blood flow.


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