how to stretch like an olympian

Stretching: 3 quick stretches to keep you as flexible as an Olympic athlete

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Want to perform at your best and stay injury-free? Have a go at these three simple stretches, as prescribed by former Olympic snowboarder, Aimee Fuller.

With Team GB going from strength to strength at the Tokyo Olympics, their 13 gold medals (so far) may have inspired you to take your training to the next level.

Though it may not feel as satisfying as lifting a PB or shaving minutes off your 10k time, stretching is actually one of the most important parts of any athlete’s routine – particularly when it comes to preventing injury and maintaining optimum fitness. So if you want to up the ante with your workouts, adding some key stretches is a great place to start.

Stretching is so important for me in everything I do,” former Olympic snowboarder Aimee Fuller tells Stylist. “Lengthening and elongating the muscles after performance is essential for recovery.”

Fuller represented Team GB at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics and was the first woman to land a double backflip and cab double 900. She is also a trained yoga instructor, which she says was her “saviour” between two Olympic cycles.

Aimee Fuller is a two-time Winter Olympian who is now a fully-qualified yoga instructor.
Aimee Fuller is a two-time Winter Olympian who is now a fully-qualified yoga instructor.

How to stretch like an Olympic athlete

Fuller recommends yoga because it is so easy to fit around other training. “I would do 30 minutes of yoga first thing before any sessions – activating and awakening my core and fine muscle groups so that I was prepared.”

She would then add in another 45 minutes of yoga post-training for the games, to “elongate, strengthen and put my body back together after a hard session.”

“Aside from the physical benefits, stretching and yoga have tonnes of mental health benefits: yoga makes you feel calm, helps relieve stress, increases body awareness and relaxes your mind,” she adds.

Want to learn how to limber up like a two-time Olympian? Here Fuller shares three of her favourite stretches.

Active pigeon

  1. Start on all fours in a squared table pose.
  2. Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your right knee at two o’clock.
  3. Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow.
  4. Keep your hips square to the floor. If your hips aren’t square, there will be unnecessary force on your back, and you won’t be able to open the hips to their fullest.
  5. If you’re not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward toward your left hand.
  6. To get a full release in the hips, breathe and release the belly. Stay in this position anywhere from 10 breaths to five minutes.

“This really opens up the glutes and is also great for stretching the hips and lower back,” says Fuller.

Triangle pose

  1. Start in a standing position with your legs further than shoulder-width apart. Engage your right thigh muscles. Extend your right hand toward the front of the room, keeping your right hip tucked.
  2. Lower your right hand down onto your shin or ankle.
  3. As you open your chest, reach your left fingertips toward the ceiling while keeping your left shoulder rooted in its socket.
  4. Turn your head to take your gaze up toward your fingertips.
  5. Draw your right thigh muscles upward, deepening the crease in your right hip.
  6. Soften your right knee slightly to prevent hyperextension.
  7. Stay for at least five breaths. Repeat the pose on the other side with your left leg forward.

“This is one of my favourites as it is so multifunctional,” Fuller adds. “It opens up the side body, also really hits core activation which is great for stability and opens up the hamstrings too.”

Half-moon pose

Half-moon pose involves engaging the core, lengthening the hamstrings and honing balance.
Half-moon pose involves engaging the core, lengthening the hamstrings and honing balance.

  1. Begin in Triangle Pose with your right leg forward. Bend your right knee softly and bring your left hand to your hip.
  2. Bring your right hand to the floor in front of your right foot. Your hand should be under your shoulder when you are in the full pose, so in order to set it up in the correct position, place it about a foot in front of and to the right of your right foot. Tilt your hand so that just your fingertips are on the floor.
  3. Begin to straighten your right leg while simultaneously lifting your left foot off the floor. Keep your left leg as straight as possible.
  4. Open your hips, stacking the left hip point on top of the right hip point.
  5. Bring your left leg straight and parallel to the floor. Flex your left foot strongly with the toes pointing toward the left side of the room.
  6. When you feel balanced on the right leg, reach the left arm up toward the ceiling, opening the chest and making a straight line with the right and left arms perpendicular to the floor.
  7. Hold for around five breaths before releasing the left leg to the floor and repeating the pose on the other side.

As Fuller explains: “This is another one that has a multitude of benefits: core strength, balance and elongates the hip joint and it also strengthens hamstrings and calves as well as the shoulders and spine.”

Aimee Fuller hosts The Olympic Mile podcast available to listen on BBC Sounds.

Want to get more flexible? Try one of Emma’s 15-minute mobility workouts.

Images: Getty

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