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Stretching should be a part of your fitness program. You’ve heard this, right? All too often I have people come train with me and they are always surprised by the amount of time we spend stretching our muscles (and warming up too, but that’s a different article) after a workout.
You might be thinking stretching is a Yoga only thing. Wrong. Or maybe you think you don’t have time to stretch. “I worked out, ran, or (insert activity of choice here) and I’m late to a dinner so skipping stretching is alright, right?” Wrong.
It’s not just about preventing injury. Stretching:
- Is good for your cardiovascular system.
- Can help improve your body’s range of motion (which is super important as we age).
- Can help build muscle. It helps improve blood flow to your muscles, which allows more oxygen to go to a working muscle, which can help your muscles build faster.
Here are 3 stretches that you might not be doing. They do not require any equipment, so you can do them in your cubicle, at home and definitely at the gym after a workout.
Your calves are composed of two muscles; the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Making them look good in shorts is hard work. Ever seen the monsters at the gym who are 85% upper body, and have twigs for legs? Right. Not a good look. So building your calves is a good call. An easy way to stretch them is to put your foot up as close as you can vertically against a wall and gently lean your upper body forward into the wall. Hold for 30 seconds, then change feet.
Our neck and shoulders are generally where we all hold onto stress. This is especially applicable if you sit at a desk all day for work or continually check on your Fantasy team. If your neck is killing you, you might be less likely to knock out a really good lift or cardio session. It’s distracting. A literal pain in the neck. This stretch can really help out here. To do this neck stretch: gently lean your right ear as close as you can to your right shoulder, and push your left hand towards the floor. Looks a little goofy, but if you’ve never done this stretch before, you might be really surprised at how effective it is. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. Bonus: this can also help relieve headaches.
Lower back pain from sitting all day? This stretch helps that and more. It engages your biceps, triceps, deltoids, shoulders, chest, neck and abdominals. That’s a lot of muscles stretched with just one pose. To do cobra, start by laying face down on a mat or soft carpet and put your hands beside your shoulders. Gently push your upper body up while your lower body is pushing into the floor. Try to think about your shoulder blades pressing up against a wall. Hold for at least 10 seconds, release back down and do it again a few times. This one might get you a few funny looks from office-mates if you have any, but it does wonders.
Before you start stretching, remember:
- Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds (or longer if it feels good).
- Stretching shouldn’t hurt… bad. Sure, you might feel a little tug, but it shouldn’t be agonizing. You’ll be able to get a little deeper into your stretches as you limber up over time from, well… from stretching.
Contributor Kelly Sturdy is a Certified Personal Trainer and Specialist in Fitness Nutrition. While not training her clients or competing in Bikini Class body building competitions, Kelly can be found in her organic garden, possibly talking to a chicken or two. For more of her articles, click here.