So after a few months of being a bum I decided it was time to hop on my treadmill machine again. I was so glad that I remembered where I put my treadmill mat! I love my treadmill because in my heart of hearts I’m a couch potato. I LOVE television and since my machine is parked in front of my TV I can get on in and zone out. Well, yesterday I hopped on and after just a 45 minute workout I felt good, until I sat down for a minute and tried getting back up. Ouch.
Being the 28 year old baby I am, I called my dad because of course I was dying and automatically assume the worst. Also my father is an international Kick boxing champion and avid gym rat (a gene he did NOT pass to me) so I figured he’d have a quick fix. I quickly learned I didn’t stretch properly. The only thing quick about that phone call was how quick he was to start lecturing me. There are many benefits of stretching you might want to consider before jumping into a workout. You really need to take care of your muscles and blah blah blah… I stopped listening. Everybody knows parents are always wrong and they just want to make life harder for us (says the 15 year old inside of me). I, being stubborn (a gene he DID pass to me) looked up facts on my own and was less than surprised to see my dad actually knows a thing or two.
The first and most important benefit to gain from stretching is relieving of pain! Not just to relieve pain, but to prevent the tightness that causes it. I read that another important benefit of stretching is that it releases a lubricating substance from the cartilage within your joints; which allows your joints to move more smoothly, preserving the cartilage in your joints and keeping your bones from scraping. I also learned that stretching can improve the circulation of water and nutrients through your body, which slows the aging process. Studies have also shown that stretching can lengthen muscles and, by doing so, can improve your posture. At this point I’m thinking an all purpose exercise mat would be an ideal gift to myself.
Here’s the kicker. All these benefits are achievable, even if you don’t regularly work out. You can experience a healthier, more comfortable day, just by stretching.
In order for stretching to be effective, you’ll need to warm up your muscles first. A simple ten minute walk or jog will make a huge difference. Remember, cold muscles are tighter, and will make you have a harder and more uncomfortable time stretching. If you don’t want to go out into the heat or rain, or have allergies, or you just want to stay in front of the TV, a stretching strap is a pretty affordable way to help you stretch indoors.
However, there are times when stretching should be avoided. Don’t stretch before intense workout sessions like sprinting or other high-intensity cardio training. Below are some tips if you decide to use a strap:
-Use a yoga strap for deep stretching, especially sitting poses that stretch the legs. Take the yoga strap in your hands and place the yoga strap around the instep of your feet. Pull gently on the strap with both hands for resistance as you bend forward at the waist. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat four to six times.For an advanced, deeper stretch, shorten the strap by wrapping it around your hands a few times. Place the strap around the instep of your feet and pull gently on the strap with both hands for resistance. Touch your nose to your knee (if you are flexible enough).This stretch will release tension in your hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.
-Use a yoga strap in standing poses to stretch your legs and hips, and to help improve your balance. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Plant your feet firmly into the exercise mat. Look straight ahead and focus on the wall in front of you. Lift your right leg gently and place the strap around the instep of your right foot. Pull gently on the strap with both hands as you lift your right leg off the ground. Stretch leg straight. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat 4-6 times (alternate each side). For an advanced, deeper stretch, shorten the strap by wrapping it around your hands a few times. Place the strap around the instep of your right foot. Pull gently on the strap with your right hand only. Lift your right leg off the ground. Stretch leg straight in front of you. Move your right leg to your right side. Pull the strap higher with your right hand for more resistance and to achieve a deeper stretch. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat four to six times on each side.
-Use a yoga strap for stretching your arms shoulders and chest (especially when you can’t reach both hands behind your back). Place the right arm behind your back and place the left arm over your shoulder so it touches your upper back. Take one end of the strap in each hand. Tug each end of the strap with each hand, which will give you a deep stretch in your arms (especially in the triceps), shoulders and chest. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat four to six times
-Use a yoga strap for prone positions (before final relaxation) to stretch the legs, back, hips and groin area. Lie down on your mat and wrap a yoga strap around the instep of your feet. Use both hands and lift your legs towards the ceiling. Tug on the strap at the same time as you lift your legs higher for a deeper stretch. Hold the strap with your right hand and move your right leg slowly the right side. Touch your right leg to the mat (if you are flexible enough) while still holding the strap with your right hand. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat four to six times, alternating sides.