The Fitness Zone
Our lifestyles involve more sitting than ever. The less we move, the tighter our muscles become, and as a result, many people suffer from pain and dysfunction, commonly associated with office based work and a generally sedentary lifestyle. Often those in pain turn to physiotherapy and massage which offers much needed relief, until old patterns begin to repeat themselves again and the pain or muscle tension inevitably returns. So, we have gone to Rhiannon Edwards, Massage Coach for the Australian Institute of Fitness, WA, to share her top five stretches that will aid your mobility.
Stretching is a cost free, self-empowering, time efficient and simple way to maintain healthy muscles. A comprehensive five minute stretching routine could potentially change posture, reduce pain, promote tissue repair, lubricate stiff joints and improve training recovery. The physical benefits of safe stretching are undeniable and are too often ignored by those seeking quick fixes.
Alongside all of these benefits, a mindful five minute stretching routine could also offer all of the psychological benefits of meditation including improving mental health and lowering stress levels. Simply by focusing on the breath, stretching routines can allow an individual to escape the chaos of the brain for a small period of time which is in itself a meditative practice.
Where time permits, a more thorough stretch routine should be incorporated into any weekly workout schedule. Classes such as Ashtanga/Vinyasa Yoga and Pilates are fantastic because they incorporate strength and stretch into each pose which creates muscular balance at major joints. One professional class per week combined with a daily five minute practice is enough to create major transformations to the physical body.
Where there is discomfort there is often avoidance. It is important to acknowledge when pursuing a new stretch or Yoga routine, that it will not be easy. It will be uncomfortable, you may shake and you may even sweat. The body is simply not used to this new way of moving. Simply be patient and be consistent and the painful stretch will eventually transform into an enjoyable opening of the body. Remember joint pain is never ok in stretching. If anything hurts the knee, hip, or shoulder joint, back off the tension.
Below are five simple stretches that target most major muscle groups of the body that you can do anywhere, and will complement your training;
#1 Child’s Pose
Child's pose is a common beginners yoga pose, but nethertheless is a great stretch to add to your cool down post workout. This pose helps to lower your heart rate, and is a great stretch to clear the mind, and relax.
#2 Downward Dog
The Downward Dog pose, is a standing pose that builds strength while stretching a number of muscles at the same time. You should feel this in your calves, shoulders, and back.
#3 Pigeon Pose
Also known as the hurdle stretch. This is a great pose to do to open up your hip flexors, and stretch through to your glutes. These areas get very tight if you spend most of your day sitting. Remember to stretch both sides.
#4 Supine Twist
Wheather you are warming up, or cooling down, the supine twist pose is a great way to relieve any tension in your back. Remember to stretch both sides.
#5 Wide Legged Forward Fold Bend With Strap
Tilting from your hips, you will feel this stretch down the back of your legs, while also building mobility through your shoulders, by clasping your hands behind your back and reaching away from your body.
Remember these simple tips when practicing this routine;
- Stretching should never hurt! Be gentle with your body.
- Breathe. In for 3, out for 3. Through the nose if possible.
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds on both sides.
- Stretch when your muscles are warm. After exercise, a bath or a hot shower.
- Be consistent! Stretch every day for 1 month and you will notice how your body changes.