Do you need a little holiday healing? Weeks one, two and three of our monthlong “November to Remember” fitness plan focused on establishing healthy habits and identifying the toning tools and tricks necessary for successfully implementing a new wellness routine.
This week we will conclude our total-body conditioning crash course with a form of exercise that receives very little attention — stretching. Muscles and joints require a solid stretching program in order to reach their full range of motion and to avoid injuries from muscular imbalances.
Here are the top stretches to relieve tired, achy muscles and improve flexibility.
Child’s pose. Whether you are just waking up, or want to unwind from a long day, the child’s pose is one of the most relaxing and effective positions for melting stress away from the body. This stretch addresses tight muscles in the shoulders, back, and hips.
Step 1. Begin on your hands and knees on a soft surface, like a carpeted floor or mat.
Step 2. Push your hips back until your butt is resting on your heels. Those who suffer from rigid muscles or tight hip flexors may experience some difficulty getting the butt and heels to make contact but don’t fret — simply ease into this stretch to the best of your ability. Your arms should be outstretched with your hands planted on the mat and your head resting between your arms.
Step 3. For a deeper stretch, position your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold for at least 20-30 seconds.
Sumo squat twist. If you experience tension in the upper portion of your back and spine, this stretch will help alleviate stress and strain. Those with back pain or herniated discs, should consult your physician prior to performing this exercise.
Step 1. Take a deep breath to elongate your spine and open your chest. Position your legs into a wide stance and adjust your feet so they are facing out at a 45-degree angle.
Step 2. Bend at your hips so you can comfortably position your hands on the inside of your knees. Both knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
Step 3. Bring your right shoulder toward the floor to stretch the torso. Hold for 3-5 breaths, then switch sides. Repeat 10-12 times.
Crescent lunge. This stretch concentrates on opening tight hip flexors and elongating the posterior muscles of the legs. It even helps boost your balance. The crescent lunge is a higher lunge than other variations, which makes it a great starting point for beginners.
Step 1. Stand tall with your arms extended and parallel to the ground.
Step 2. Take a large step forward (2 to 3 feet) with the right foot. Make sure that your hips are square and forward-facing.
Step 3. Take a deep breath and simultaneously elevate your arms toward the ceiling while bending the right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Your knee should be aligned with your ankle and your shoulders should be aligned above your hips. Hold for 3-5 breaths, then switch legs. Repeat 10 times.
For best results, practice these stretches twice each day.
The “November to Remember” fitness plan was designed to be used at any stage. Don’t stress if you veer off course. Simply review the plan and start again. Living well is a process so be patient with yourself.
Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.