Thursday, August 20, 2009

Add Energy to Your Day and Felxibility to your Frame with Time Sliced Stretching

Clients frequently tell me that one of the best parts of their Fitness Together program is the 5 minutes of trainer assisted stretching at the end of their personal training session. While this short stretching event will indeed help improve flexibility and assists with recovery, it's also on the short end of what an adequate stretching program should include. Ideally, you'd like to stretch or perform yoga at least 20 minutes per day. However, for a lot of us (ahem) stretched on time, one unique way to get additional stretching into your day is with something we call time sliced stretching.

A terrific supplement to your active office, time sliced stretching simply includes short bouts of stretching performed in line with the rest of your busy day.

It works like this: if you're climbing a set of stairs, stretch a bit on the way up and then again at the top of the flight; if you're walking through a doorway, stretch a bit as you pass through.

Small amounts of time sliced stretching throughout your day can both improve your flexibility and give you a minor energy boost! On stairs, there are a number of things you can do to stretch. First, after taking a few single steps up, start taking 2 or 3 steps at a time. This motion roughly equates to a lunging exercise, so be sure to step slowly (your muscles will probably be cold) into your 1st double and triple steps. This primarily stretches the gluts, but also hits the hamstrings a bit as well. Near the middle of the flight take especially slow steps and really try to go low with with a few deep steps ... you'll feel the stretch in your gluts.

Once near the top of the flight, and now that the legs are warmed up a bit, it's time for some calf and hamstring stretches. Grab the hand rail and balance on your toes over the edge of a step. Switch your weight from leg to leg, alternatively stretching your calves by allowing your heels to drop below the step height. Then, come back down the stairs a couple of steps and extend a straightened leg up a couple of steps to stretch your hamstrings. Sloooowly bring your nose towards your knee until you feel the slight discomfort of the stretch and hold for 10 seconds. Stretching might feel somewhat uncomfortable, but never painful. If it hurts, you're stretching too far! This entire stair climbing stretch can be done in as little as 60 additional seconds and just plain feels good!

If (and only if!) your shoulders are stable and without range of motion limitations, you can quite easily stretch your chest with something I call door jam stretches. As you navigate your home or office throughout the day,you can easily your stretch chest and back in just a few minutes by using the door jam as a stationary object. To stretch your chest and shoulders, stand about 6 inches in front of an open door jam. Place your hands on the sides of door jam at shoulder height. With feet firmly planted, allow your body weight to "fall" through the doorway to where your chest is stretched and resists falling further forward . Hold the stretch 8 to 10 seconds and repeat up to 5 times. As with staircase stretches, start slowly and gently ... you'll be stretching COLD muscles, which is less than optimal.

While in the same doorway, you can handily stretch your back as well. With one arm, reach across your body to grab the inside of the door jam molding. Then, slowly rotate your body away from the hand holding the molding. You'll feel this stretch in your rear deltoids, trepezius, and latissimus dorsi (the largest back muscle). Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat up to 5 times on each arm.

If you're tall enough (most door jams are 7' and reachable if you're taller than 5'6"), reach overhead and place both hands on the top of the door jam. Grab hold of the molding around the door jam if possible. With a firm grip on the top of the door jam, perform a toe raiser to slightly thrust your torso through the doorway. As you do so, you'll be arching your spine and stretching your latissimus dorsi . Hold for 8 or 10 seconds and repeat up to 5 times. As with the chest stretch, you'll be performing this stretch without the benefit of a proper warm-up, so do be gentle at the start.

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