Did you know that flexibility is one of five components that make up physical fitness? If becoming physically fit is an aspiration for you this year, then don’t forget about flexibility! As a rule of thumb, 10% of your workout should be allocated to stretching. This will help make sure you are including self-care for yourself before and after a workout. It’s so easy to cut out stretching from a workout. I get it! We have limited time and when we fit the time in our day to workout we just want to get into the workout and get it done. But stretching is not a waste of time and it has some great benefits. I joined up with Fitness Trainers Nicole Jenkins and Mitch Splede from MVP Athletic Club, Crahen and they have shared with me some of their favorite stretches. When we understand the why behind a stretch, we are more apt to doing them!
SEATED STRADDLE POSE:
Why: Stretches lower back, hips and hamstrings. Low back pain can stem from tight hips and hamstrings, this stretch can release stress in these areas.
How to: Sit with your legs wide, feet pointing upwards and tall erect spine. Breath in to brace your core and hinge at the waist to lower chest towards floor. Stretch to a point of tension but not pain. Relax and hold stretch for approximately 30 secs, return to starting position and repeat stretch 3-5x. Avoid bouncing, holding your breath and pushing to a point of pain.
THORACIC SPINE EXTENSION ON FOAM ROLLER:
Why: Increase mobility in thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is built for mobility, flexion and extension. Immobility in the thoracic spine could lead to shoulder pain and lower back issues. The lumbar spine (low back) is built for stability, however the thoracic spine should be mobile and flexible but due to poor posture, daily computer work, driving, texting, etc., most people have reduced mobility in their thoracic spine.
*To increase mobility prior to exercise I recommend thoracic spine extension on a foam roller
How: Lay on your back with a foam roller placed on the middle of your back, just below your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head and your elbows forward. While keeping your butt on the ground, extend back over the foam roller by reaching your head to the ground. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then return to the start. Repeat 10x and perform daily.
Why: Increases mobility of spine, opens rib cage increasing breathing capacity, strengthens wrist and stretches front side of the body, including abdominal cavity.
How to: Lay flat on your stomach with your hands near your rib cage, fingers forward. Squeeze your glutes and press the tops of your feet and thighs into the ground and you press through your hands to lift up your chest. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and lift with your lower back more than your arms. Hold for 15-30 secs before releasing and repeating 3-5 rounds.
HIP FLEXOR STRETCH (Lunge with Overhead Reach)
Why: To undo the damage we do when we sit for extended periods of
time. This stretch lengthens the connection between the pelvic girdle and
the femur. When this is tight we lack proper mobility.
How to: Step your right foot back into a lunge position. Back foot
has knee to ground, hip above knee and creating 90 degree angle at knee.
Front foot has heel down, knee above heel, creating 90 degree angle at
knee. Place your hands on your hips and tilt the hips forward. Raise the right (or back foot side) arm upward, with a slight back
extension (continue reach upward to behind slightly), lifting the chest
upward. Hold for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Why: Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while
reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of
the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back
How to: Sitting on your feet, spread your knees slightly wider than
shoulder width apart. From there, sink your hips back toward your feet
while then lying face down between your knees, then extend your arms
as far forward as you can, which will lengthen your spine. Take deep
breaths, in for 3-5 seconds, and exhaling 5-10 seconds. While continuing
your breaths, try to sink deeper into the stretch. Continue for as long as
STANDING HAMSTRING STRETCH (Toe Touch)
Why: The standing hamstring stretch helps increase range of motion in
the (you guessed it) hamstrings, or the back of the legs along with the
low back. When the hip flexors are tight (often from sitting too long), it
causes a pelvic tilt that causes tightness in the lower back, and a tight
lower back often results in tight hamstrings.
How to: Start standing with feet together and keep the legs as
straight as possible. A soft bend in the knee is okay, but not much more
than that. Simply tilt from the hips and reach toward your toes. Aiming
for first the knees, then shins, and eventually the feet. Take deep breaths,
as you exhale, attempt to go deeper into the stretch. Hold for
approximately 30-60 seconds before moving on.
Remember, take care of yourself so you can stay active injury and pain free! Stretching is one way we can do that. Keep in mind the benefits of each stretch and it will help you take the time to get them in. Having good flexibility is part of being physically fit!
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