by Katie Ferraro
Been on your feet all day and now your legs feel heavy? The obvious solution would be to take a load off and sit down, but that’s not always an option — and actually isn’t always the best way to relieve those aches and pains. In addition to taking proactive steps to support your legs throughout the day, like wearing compression socks or making sure you have on the right pair of shoes, carving out 10 to 15 minutes in the morning or evening to stretch out is an easy way to ensure you stay as energized and as active as possible. Read on to discover simple leg stretches you can do anywhere to energize your tired legs.
Perhaps the least invasive stretch you can add to your routine is a calf stretch. You can do this virtually anywhere, as long as you have a wall or upright surface. Standing with the ball of your foot against a wall with your heel on the ground, place your other foot a comfortable step behind you. With both hands on the wall, lean into your front foot, feeling the stretch in your calf. This should be a relatively gentle stretch, but extremely effective.
Moving up to your hamstrings, a simple stretch to get the blood flowing is the classic yoga pose Downward-Facing Dog. Starting on your hands and knees, push your hips up and back. You should feel this stretch in the back of your legs. While in this position, you can make it more active to get a little bonus stretch by bending your knees, one at a time, nice and slow. This will give you an additional stretch in your calves. Plus, it’ll also take some of the pressure off your lower back and encourage blood flow throughout the body, helping you feel more energized. .
Legs Up the Wall
One of my personal favorites is another yoga pose: Legs Up the Wall. This one is pretty straightforward: All you need to do is lay down on the floor with your booty as close to the wall as possible. Once you’re there, extend your legs straight up the wall. This inversion reverses the blood flow, reinvigorating tired, heavy legs. Stay here for a few minutes, or as long as your body allows (plugging in a podcast or pulling out your book is a great way to encourage yourself to settle into the stretch).
While you are still nice and close to the wall, use it for the next stretch: the couch stretch, which targets your quads and your hip flexors (the muscles that connect your quads with your lower back). To get into this one, kneel in front of the wall with the wall behind you. Place both hands on the ground in front of you, and shift one leg back so your shin is parallel to the wall, with your knee on the ground. Try to get your knee as close to the wall as possible.
The goal here is to sit up as upright as you can, supporting yourself with your hands on your front leg. If you can’t get upright, no sweat! This tends to be a tough stretch for most people as we spend a lot of time sitting, causing us to have tight hip flexors. The mobility will come over time. The key here is feeling the stretch in the front of the leg that’s against the wall.
Beyond Leg Stretches
While stretching each part of your legs will play a big part in relieving fatigue, you can do a few other things beyond stretching. When I’m on my feet all day and experiencing tired legs, my favorite thing to do is put on a pair of compression socks and roll out my feet. The compression socks promote blood flow to re-energize the muscles, and using a lacrosse ball to roll out the bottoms of my feet helps to relax the muscles connected to my calves and ankles. Oftentimes, we forget how much pressure our feet endure throughout our day, and this little massage — combined with a few deep stretches — is a nice treat!
Katie Ferraro is a writer and group fitness trainer in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing or at the gym, you’ll find her somewhere in the wilderness camping, hiking or backpacking.