All Entries For stretching
Foam rollers are excellent, inexpensive tools that can be used both for muscular warm up and recovery. Most gyms have a few of them available in the stretching area, but if you are an at-home exerciser you may want to consider investing in one of your own (they usually run between $7-$20—here's a link to the one I purchased on Amazon).
Studies have shown that foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release) can actually help reduce stiffness, pain, and even improve your range of motion (aka performance) during your workout. Think of it like this—when you first grab a pair of jeans out of the dryer and put them on, they are super stiff and hard to move in, so you do your squatting ritual to help ''break them in'' and fit comfortably again, right? Utilizing a foam roller can help loosen up your stiff, sore muscles again so you can move comfortably and efficiently. Try rolling as often as you like—before or after a workout, and/or on your recovery day. Read More ›
One of the best ways to start your day in a healthy way is to take a moment to ground your thoughts by stretching and intentionally breathing. It's amazing what you can accomplish in less than seven minutes to set your day on the right path.
When you stretch deeply, you should always be warm. So performing this series after a morning workout or after a hot shower is optimal. If you do it right out of bed, make sure you stretch more gently.
Here are eight stretches to add to your morning routine to feel strong, flexible and grounded. These exercises cover all your major muscle groups and can be followed any time of day, including after your workouts. Read More ›
Like so many of you, I suffer from back pain, which I keep in check by taking care of my body with daily yoga, weekly Pilates classes, and being conscious about my posture. And though my job is pretty awesome, I do spend my days in front of a computer. I love writing and editing, but I don't love sitting. I am fortunate that the SparkPeople offices have not only a treadmill desk but some standing desk options as well.
When I'm working on large projects, I've been known to spend hours and hours sitting--without much movement. As soon as I do stand up, my body feels it. So I avoid staleness of mind and stiffness of body by finding creative ways to move throughout the day.
Here's what works for me: Read More ›
When I first started running, I thought for sure it would be a bad combination with yoga. Running is repetitive, it can be hard on the body, and it's fast.
After my first few runs, I felt sore and tight, despite my thorough stretching session afterwards. I spent all that time practicing yoga to loosen my muscles; it seemed silly to then tighten them up with one little run.
A few runs and a bit of research later, I changed my mind. Running and yoga complement each other quite well, and I don't need to end up sore and tight after my runs.
The breath control (pranayama) we practice in yoga actually helps me keep my breathing even when runs get tough, and it's especially helpful after a hard run. Plus, there is a certain peace that accompanies running (and walking). That repetitive motion allows your mind to clear, and the path that lies before allows your eyes to focus on the horizon. Add some motivating music, and you've got quite the relaxing and stress-relieving workout!
My friend Bob (BOBBYD31) SparkMailed me recently to ask about yoga. He's a runner and, like many of you, battles tight hips and hamstrings. He wanted to try yoga but wasn't sure where to start. I gave him some suggestions for DVDs and books--and did one better. I'm a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, so I decided to create a routine for him and other runners to help them stretch out after a run and keep his muscles healthy and loose.
Here are a baker's dozen poses to help runners (and cyclists and walkers). Hold each pose for 5 breaths or longer if you'd like. You'll need a mat and a yoga block (or a chair) for these poses.
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The hip flexors are the group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees toward your chest and bend forward from the hips. What is collectively referred to as the hip flexors is actually a group of muscles that includes the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles (rectus femoris, Sartorius and tensor fasciae latae), and the inner thigh muscles (adductor longus and brevis, pectineus and gracilis).
Tight hip flexors are a common problem among those of us who spend a lot of the day sitting at a desk. When you spend a lot of time in a seated position, the hip flexors remain in a shortened position. Over time, the shortened muscles become “tight," which leads to its own set of problems.
Tight hip flexors can result in lower back pain, hip pain and injury. A lot of strain is put on those muscles during activities that involve sprinting and kicking. For example, runners are more prone to hip flexor injuries because of the small, repetitive movement during running. But even if you’re not an athlete, hip flexor injuries can occur during everyday activities (for instance, slipping and falling or running to catch a bus). When those tight muscles are suddenly stretched beyond what they are accustomed to, you might also experience pain in the upper groin region, typically where the hip meets the pelvis.
Simple hip-strengthening and stretching exercises can help keep these muscles from becoming tight, therefore decreasing your risk of injury and discomfort. Try these stretches daily and incorporate a few of the strength exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week. Read More ›
Over the past three decades, fitness shoe manufacturers have developed advanced technology to cushion and control motion in our feet and ankles. While this advanced support can feel great, it doesn't allow our joints and soft tissue to articulate normally. As a result, we've disconnected with our feet! Much of our losses in flexibility and mobility can be attributed to the fact that our feet have become stiff and weak. A healthy, aligned and balanced body begins in your feet—and then translates through your entire kinetic chain (ankle, knee, hip, lower back).
As a pioneer in foot fitness (Sole Training®) and barefoot training (The willPower Method®), I've been helping everyday clients and athletes strengthen, stretch and train from the feet on up for more than 10 years. If you're intrigued by barefoot running/training or thinking of trying minimalist shoes, you must start working on your feet first. And even if barefoot training isn't something you're considering, everyone can still benefit from building foot and ankle mobility and strength.
Are you tired of wearing uncomfortable orthotics or getting painful cortisone injections? Are you dealing with an old injury or plantar fasciitis? Are you finding that your balance skills are not what they used to be?
These five exercises will help you to strengthen and stretch all ten toes, and develop flexible strength from the ground up. Over time you will enjoy improved balance in daily activities and workouts, a stronger walking/running stride, increased circulation and mobility throughout the feet and ankles, and significant reductions of foot, leg and lower back pain and injuries. All it takes is five minutes a day! Read More ›
I was not blessed with natural flexibility. Unless I stretch on a regular basis, I have no hope of reaching down and touching my toes. My tendency to skip stretching after runs (I know, shame on me) has come back to bite me in the past. I’ve had a few running injuries that could easily have been avoided, had I been stretching on a regular basis. Therefore, this blog is for both you and me. Maybe it will give both of us a new stretching routine to add to our regular workouts, and if it only takes 5 minutes, it’s a short amount of time that’s well-spent. Read More ›
Tai Chi has become an increasingly popular form of exercise for all age groups, but current research has shown how it can be especially beneficial for older individuals. This graceful sequence of gentle, flowing movement combines physical postures with mindful focus, making it a great fit for those who find other forms of exercise too strenuous.
But Tai Chi isn't only used for relaxation purposes--it may also be a useful exercise for those working toward weight loss. In a study that observed obese postmenopausal women, the subjects that participated in three 45-minute Tai Chi classes a week lost similar amounts of body fat as the diet-only group, but maintained greater muscle mass (meaning that the group lost less muscle or fat-free mass as a result of dieting).
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I've blogged a lot about the downsides of sitting at work (or school) for hours a day. It can be a real pain in the neck—and back! But just because you sit doesn't mean you're doomed to suffer. The keys to combat the effects of sitting are to be aware of how you're sitting and take steps (literally!) to get up and moving as much as possible throughout your day.
For those of you who spend a lot of time in a seated position, there are a few posture-enhancing stretches I recommend that you do several times a day. These simple moves will help you focus on sitting tall and with proper alignment and help prevent pain and stiffness associated with being a desk jockey. Read More ›
By now, you probably know how important it is to warm up before you work out. Warming up prepares your body for the increased demands of physical activity, reducing your risk of injury and complications. Beyond sending more oxygen and blood flow to your muscles, a proper warm up also prepares you mentally for what's to come—a workout that may take concentration, coordination and a little motivation.
The one thing you shouldn't do at this time is the very thing that most people do: stretch. So why is stretching before a workout a bad idea? Read More ›
New to yoga? Try these basic yoga poses to get stronger and more flexible.
- Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides.
- Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.
Tight hamstrings are a common complaint not only amongst runners, cyclists and rowers, but for those who tend to sit most of the day, whether at a desk at work or school, spend a lot of time on the couch watching TV, sitting at the computer, even for those individuals who spend hours in the car every day.
The hamstrings are the group of muscles that make up the back of the thigh and include: the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. These muscles are responsible for flexing the knee and extending the hip. For many of us, tight hamstrings can lead to bigger issues down the road such as lower back pain as well as knee and hip problems. This is why keeping our hamstrings limber should be an important part of our exercise routine so that we can hopefully prevent injury and make our physical activities easier.
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In January, I started teaching a new yoga class. Many of my students are athletes, particularly runners and cyclists. My boyfriend, who co-founded a local competitive cycling team, is also a yoga teacher, and the two of us firmly believe that athletes should integrate yoga into their fitness routine. When I teach yoga classes for runners, I like to focus on the hips and hamstrings, which tend to be tight for runners. We also work on building strength. For cyclists, who spend a great deal of time leaning over the handlebars, we also focus on opening the chest and shoulders, undoing all those hours of being hunched over. Both groups of athletes rely on their feet and ankles to perform, but these areas of the body are often overlooked when it comes to stretching. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite stretches for the feet and ankles. Add these to your post-workout repertoire. These stretches can feel quite intense at first, and that's normal. Take your time, use props when needed, and remember to BREATHE! Read More ›
This series of yoga poses will help you open your hips, stretch your hamstrings and energize your body. Designed for someone with a basic knowledge of yoga, use these poses to strengthen and lengthen.
You'll need a yoga mat for this practice, along with a block, if you use one. The photos here show the sequence on the left side of the body. Hold each pose for at least five breaths, and repeat on the other side.
Be sure to warm up, either with some cardio or a few sun salutations.
Before you begin, remember these precautions:
- Do not start a yoga routine or any other workout without clearance from your doctor.
- These poses are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Each pose should be done in a slow and controlled manner, without bouncing or forcing, which can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of “mild discomfort.” If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far. Learn to "respect your edge"--never go beyond it.
- A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose. Hold each pose for five breaths, or longer if you'd like.
Running is a great way to burn calories, lose weight and get fit, and now that spring is nearly here, more and more people are dusting off their sneakers and hitting the ground running. I recently visited FOX 19 in Cincinnati to share some running tips and wasn't shocked with the anchor, Rob Williams, told me that although he's an avid runner (currently training for yet another marathon), he hates to stretch and usually ends up skipping it. I wasn't surprised, as I hear comments like that from exercisers on a regular basis. Usually when I teach a class, people start to leave when I start to lead the stretches, eager to get on their way now that the workout is over.
A lot of people avoid stretching, either because they're not sure what to do, they don't think it matters, or they simply feel like it's a waste of time—they just want to get going with their workout. They couldn't be more wrong! Everyone should stretch, and runners should take special care to maintain flexibility in specific areas of the body in order to run stronger and injury-free. That's especially important if you're new to running and want to start your training program on the right foot.
So, should you stretch before or after your run? What stretches should runners be sure to do? Read More ›