Injury: Low Back Pain
Low back pain strikes most athletes at some point in their lives. Whether it's from stress, overtraining or a muscle imbalance, it can be incredibly hard to shake once it sets in. The cat/cow stretch is one of the most relaxing and rewarding stretches out there. It simultaneously stretches your lumbar spine, your pelvis and your upper back while activating your deep abdominal wall.
Begin in a tabletop position making sure your knees are in line with your hips and your hands are in line with your shoulders. As you exhale, scoop up your abdominals toward your spine as your lower your head and arch your back up like a cat. Take a moment to feel your shoulder blades draw down as they separate, and feel your abs draw in tight as your low back stretches. Inhale.
Exhale as you lift your head up and slide into the counter motion, where your belly button drops down as your back arches in the opposite direction for cow. Pause for a moment here. Feel your abdominal wall stretch and your shoulder blades relax and subtly come toward one another. Repeat this sequence 10 to 15 times.
Injury: IT-Band Syndrome
The Illiotibial band, an incredibly strong group of fibers that run alongside your body from the hip down to the knee, bears the brunt of all of your forward motion activities: from running and walking to cycling and hiking. Chances are, if you exercise, your IT band is tight. IT-band syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when this connective tissue rubs against your thighbone. Foam rolling, while admittedly not the most comfortable part of your stretching experience, is fantastic at breaking up the fascia that builds up around the IT band, preventing and alleviating pain.
Stretch: Side-lying foam rolling
Grab a foam roller and lie down on the ground with your left hip on the roller. Take your right leg and lift it up and over your left leg so that your right foot is planted firmly in front for stability. Slowly roll from your upper hip all the way down to just above your knee cap, being careful not to roll any further down. Don't feel anything? Chances are you're either not lying exactly on your side or you're not allowing all of your weight to rest on the foam roller. You'll know when you've found the correct spot because it will hurt. Breathe through it and try to roll on each side for 1 to 2 minutes.