Feeling sore after a day at the range? Try these stretch-and-release exercises!
If you're like me, you can't wait to get out to the range each week! But after a long day of shooting, my body sometimes starts to complain a little, and I imagine I'm not the only one! So I thought I'd share the post-range stretch-and-release routine that I use, to help speed the recovery of tired limbs.
First, a word about fascia
The tightness you feel in your muscles after a long day of activity is often due to fascial adhesions. Fascia is the silvery-white connective tissue that covers your muscles and organs, and spiderwebs throughout your entire body. Tension in the fascia is responsible for that tight, painful feeling across your muscles.
Thankfully there are some quick, easy ways to release your fascia, with the help of a few cheap, readily accessible fitness aids. All you will need for this routine is 2 pieces of equipment. Both are available from most fitness equipment retailers and physiotherapy clinics:
- Foam roller. You can buy a half-size roller for as little as AU$25, and trust me, they are worth every cent. But in a pinch, you can try use a rolling pin instead for the moves described.
- Rubber spiky massage ball. These won't set you back more than AU$15. But if you can't get hold of one, try using a tennis ball instead.
This can be a particular problem with those of us who shoot in precision disciplines that involve lying on your back or front. And if you suffer from tension headaches, this exercise is a godsend! It works by massaging the strap-like muscles that attach at the base of your skull at the back, and extend over the top of your head to the top of each eye socket.
- Lie on your back. Take your foam roller and place it under your head, so that the bony bottom part of your skull (behind your ears) is resting on the roller - do not rest your neck on the roller.
- Relax your body and slowly rotate your head from left to right.
- Breathe in as your turn your head to the side, and breathe out as you rotate back to centre.
- Continue for 1-2 minutes.
Stiff lower back!
Long periods of standing and sitting can leave your lower back feeling stiff and sore. Try doing a few roll-downs to give it a good stretch, and release the tension in your upper body at the same time!
- Stand up straight and tall, with your spine straight. Take a breath in.
- As you exhale, slowly nod your head toward your chest. You should feel a mild stretch in the back of your neck.
- Continue to roll your neck and spine down into a forward bend. Concentrate on leading with your head, travelling slowly down towards your feet. Imagine your are peeling one vertebra at a time off a wall. In fact, you can do this exercise against a wall if you wish.
- As you roll down, focus on lengthening your spine and creating space between your vertebrae, so that every part of your back gets the best stretch possible.
- Roll down as far as comfortable. Bend your knees a little to keep the tension out of your hamstrings.
- Relax your arms and head and let them hang while you breathe slowly in and out.
- Stay in this position for as long as it's comfortable, then slowly roll back up, one vertebra at a time.
- Repeat several times. Your head should get closer to the floor each time, but it's important not to force this stretch. It does not matter if you cannot touch the floor with your hands.
Particularly in the action shooting sports, adopting an aggressive stance when shooting can take it's toll on your shoulders and upper back.
Using your foam roller, try this easy exercise to relieve the tightness in your shoulders:
- Place the roller on the floor, and lie on it so that your shoulder blades are lying across the length of the roller.
- Interlace your fingers and place the back of your head in your hands, so that your neck is supported.
- Lift your butt up off the floor, with your knees bent, so that only your feet are in contact with the ground.
- Relax your body as much as possible, without letting your hips sag downwards, and roll slowly back and forth over the roller, from your upper back down to your lower mid-back
- Do this for 1-2 minutes.
- DO NOT roll onto your lower back, or onto your neck! Doing so can result in injury.
We're sometimes on our feet all day at a match. It's not uncommon for the arches of the feet to tighten up, and the best way to release the fascia (described above) in that area is to massage it with a spiked rubber ball.
- In a standing position, place the ball under the arch of one foot, and slowly roll the ball back and forth.
- Focus on your arches, as these tend to be tightest, but don't neglect your heels, balls of your feet and your toes.
- This is best done in bare feet, but if your fascia is very tight, the feeling might be too intense, so try leaving your socks on if this is the case.
- Gradually transfer more weight onto the foot, to deepen the release.
Do you have your own post-range stretches or relaxation techniques you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!
The author is a qualified fitness instructor.Originally Published Jul. 10th 2015