Have you ever wondered why you feel tight or stiff in the mornings, after a workout, or after a long day at work (stay-at-home parents you're included in this)... It's your level of flexibility, and it needs to be improved! Now, I'm not saying we all should be able to slide into a split at a moment's notice, but we all should have good flexibility that fits with our lifestyle. Gymnasts clearly have more flexibility than football players, but they each have the appropriate amount of flexibility for their jobs, and you can too. Stretching, fortunately, doesn't require special equipment or a special gym, you can do it in your bedroom every morning or before bedtime. However, be sure to always stretch after every workout, no matter how easy or hard. Yoga (you know, I had to plug my favorite) is also a great workout that focuses on stretching the body! Here are my tips for improving and increasing your flexibility levels, also some great stretches from Real Simple magazine's The Ultimate Daily Stretch.
Tips for Increasing your flexibility
- Commit to your flexibility routine, whether its a few stretches every morning or joining a yoga class, commit and stay dedicated. Ideally, you should stretch for 10-20 minutes everyday. Continuous, repetitive stretching will lend itself to great flexibility improvement.
- Breathe Deeply, when stretching breathe deeply and slowly. It is crucial in stretching,it also calms the body during uncomfortable poses. Deep breathing also oxygenates the muscles and allows blood to flow more freely helping to remove the lactic acid.
- Breathe into your Muscles, this is something we do in yoga... It sounds more complicated then it really is... As you inhale, imagine the breath moving through your body down to the muscle you are focusing on. As you exhale, watch the muscle relax and move deeper into your stretch.
- Contract & Release, while in a stretch, contract (tighten) your muscle for 20 seconds, then release and move deeper into your stretch. As the muscle is forced to hold a contraction it has the ability to relax greater during the release, which will help increase your flexibility.
- Repeat your Stretches, repetition is the key to increasing your flexibility. Repeat your stretch routine 2-3 times for optimal flexibility.
Here's a great stretch routine from Real Simple Magazine...
The Ultimate Daily Stretch
For Your Upper Body -helpful if you sit at a desk all day, need to work on your posture, or carry tension in your upper body.
1. Place your hands on the back of your head and gently push it forward with your chin tucked. Hold for five seconds.
2. Now place the heels of your hands on your chin, fingers pointing toward your ears. Gently push your head back. Hold for five seconds.
3. Rest your right hand on the top of your head and gently press your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the other side.
4. Raise your arms and clasp your hands above your head; imagine lifting and lengthening your spine. As you bend to the left, release your hands. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand and pull it to the left. Hold for five seconds. Come back to the center and repeat on the right side.
For Your Back -helpful if you are prone to lower-back pain or like to run for a workout.
1. Lie on your stomach, legs straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders and slowly lift your chest up. Hold for 10 seconds.
3. Come to a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and pointed to the right. Lift the toes of your right foot off the ground, bend at the hip, and fold your body over. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Come back to a standing position and repeat on the left side with toes pointing to the left.
For Your Lower Body -helpful if you wear high heels or like to run, walk, bicycle, or use an elliptical machine.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
2. Lift your right leg off the floor, holding it with both hands. Flex your foot and hold for five seconds. Lower and switch legs.
3. While still seated, bend your right knee and lift your leg. Pull your knee to your chest. Flex your foot and hold for five seconds. Lower your right leg and repeat with the left.