Is Your Body Ready?

Is Your Body Ready?

Is your body ready for your 2019 fitness goals?

Setting these goals may be simple but keeping them may not always be. Starting or increasing a fitness routine with an ill-prepared body means a greater likelihood of injury and a greater likelihood that the injury will derail you.

Here are a few ways adding stretch protocols into your daily life will allow your body to feel restored and at its best to make sure your goals stick.

REDUCES LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY
Areas that often have more stress placed upon them when starting a new fitness routine include the low back, knees, and hips.  If your starting point is a mostly sedentary lifestyle, sitting and lack of movement for an extended period of time stiffens and shortens the muscles.  When a new fitness regimen is initiated, the involved areas will be going through greater ranges of motion they may not be used to, leaving them more prone to injury.

Our active method of stretching allows the muscles to be properly warmed up and lengthened before starting an activity.  Blood flow and oxygen to the muscles is increased, providing protection to the joints.  Muscle imbalances are lessened when stretching as well, allowing the body to have better mobility and alignment to properly grasp the technique of the activity.  Active stretching combined with a light warm-up prior to exercise will minimize the risk of getting injured when starting a new routine.

IMPROVES POSTURE AND ALIGNMENT
Stretching helps to correct any muscle imbalances in your posture. Soon after starting a new fitness routine, you may notice a shift in your posture.  You may find your posture improving, as you are strengthening muscle groups to help you stand taller and straighter.  On the contrary, new fitness routines may also negatively impact posture. If you are beginning a new routine with less than ideal posture, chances are you will have improper form in your workouts and increase the likelihood of pain and soreness.  For example, if you start with shoulders that are rounded and elevated, your range of motion and body positioning will be unnatural and compromised. Stretching the upper body will help lower the shoulders and lengthen the spine reducing compensations and allowing you to perform your activity properly.  Stretching aims to restore the muscles to their optimal length and position.

Similar to posture, new fitness routines will affect the body’s alignment.  A properly aligned body will have the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all in line. Keeping all of these joints linear will place less stress on the spine to help better your posture.

IMPROVES RANGE OF MOTION
If you are a regularly active person, you will find that incorporating stretching routines into your daily life will enhance your workouts. The increase in range of motion associated with stretching will allow you to perform your best.  For example, stretching the hip flexors and quads will allow more range of motion to help squat deeper and put more power into spinning.  Stretching the upper body, like the pecs and shoulders, will allow greater mobility to be put into those boxing workouts.  The lengthening and lightness felt throughout the body from implementing these stretch routines will aim to increase performance.

REDUCES SORENESS AND PROMOTES RECOVERY
Any soreness post-workout is not problematic: it is your body letting you know it is adapting to the new stresses placed upon it. Excess soreness, however, can leave you feeling tight, fatigued, and unmotivated to keep up with your routine.

Stretching after a workout, whether it be directly after or the following day, will alleviate sore muscles.  Even a few minutes of stretching will increase blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to those tender areas.  This will not only reduce soreness after a workout; it will properly prepare you for your next one.

Whether you are a fitness novice or looking for new ways to maximize those workout gains, prepare your body now. Get a head start now and make 2019 the year you crush your fitness goals.  Incorporating stretching into your daily life before you begin your new fitness routine will leave your body feeling ready to take on any workout you set your mind to. Keeping stretching in your routine will keep you on track way past the time most people drop their new year routine. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and restored body in the new year.

 

Written by Ariel Scheintraub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.

Simple Stretches While Traveling

Simple Stretches While Traveling

Get the most out of every day when you travel over Memorial Day weekend!

Memorial Day weekend is a time to honor those who served, and for many, a chance to take some well-deserved time off. Whether you escape to the beach or the city, don’t let the effects on your body from your travels, impact your ability to dive right in to your long weekend. Learn what happens to your body while you travel and a few simple stretches and posture changes to help avoid and relieve common aches and pains during your journey.

What does travel do to our body?

LOW BACK
When we travel, we are likely sitting for hours on end, whether driving in a car or traveling by plane.  You’re posture may start out fine, but over time, we become more prone to slouching, causing the lumbar spine to be unsupported.  If this pattern of slouching continues, we start to form a new posture, causing different alignment in our bodies and putting stress on the joints and muscles around it.  Tension will be increased in the low back muscles.  Stretching these muscles will help increase mobility in the lower back, lessening any acute or chronic pain an individual may have there.

If you have to lift a heavy bag, keep it close to your body to protect your back and keep your core tight while you are lifting. If you are flying, practice proper sitting posture in the airport while waiting for your flight. Sit up tall, lengthen your spine, and pinch your shoulder blades back. Wherever you are traveling to, it is a good idea to support your low back by placing a rolled-up towel or small travel pillow between you and the seat. Practicing good posture will enforce good posture, preventing your low back muscles from stiffening beyond comfort.

SCIATICA
We will see clients in the studio complain of a tingling or shooting pain from their back down their leg after getting back from a trip.  Oftentimes this may be a case of sciatica.  Sciatica can be a symptom of other back issues, in which pressure is put on the sciatic nerve.  Such pressure may cause pain radiating from the back and glute muscles down the leg.  The muscles most heavily affected by sciatica are the piriformis, glute, and hamstring muscles.

Stretching the piriformis and hamstrings as in the video below, will reduce the tension of those muscles, lessening compression on the sciatic nerve.  This can be done before or after travel, using any flat surface or a chair.

HIP FLEXORS
Hip flexors connect our pelvis and thighs, and when that angle is decreased when sitting, the muscles will tighten up.  When your seated for hours during travel, that tightness increases greatly. Tight hip flexors will overstretch the glutes and hamstrings, making them harder to utilize once you reach your destination.  Having hips that are too anteriorly or posteriorly tilted will also cause a pulling of the hip flexors, which may lead to discomfort in the knees and low back.

It is important to maintain proper posture while sitting, as slouching or sitting with the knees up toward the chest will cause added tension in the hip flexors.  Try to get up and walk around during your travel, so that the muscles are not flexed the entire time. When you stop for food or bio break, take 5 extra minutes to walk around and stretch. Stretching the hip flexors, especially after a long flight or car ride, will alleviate the tension and restore the muscles to their proper range of motion.

SHOULDERS
Carrying bags are obviously necessary for travel. Heavy backpacks will place stress on the shoulders and low back.  When carrying a single shoulder bag, our bodies will favor one side.  Favoring one side causes the other to compensate in movement and posture.  Muscle imbalances that are not corrected will often cause discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and back. Although we may assume a shoulder bag only affects the muscles of the upper body, lower extremity muscles, like the hips, will also become imbalanced due to this shift in posture.

Using a rolling bag for luggage will lessen the stress of carrying bags.  If you do use a two-strap backpack, make sure not to overstuff it, and adjust the straps so the load does not lie to high or too low on your back.

NECK AND SPINE
Sitting upright for long periods of time when traveling will affect the neck and spine.  Usually neither area will be properly supported while in this seated position.  The head and neck will shift to get comfortable, or while trying to sleep.  If the back or neck is leaning to one side, that side will be shortened and should be stretched.  Looking down at any phone, tablet, or book during travel will cause the front neck muscles to tighten, while the muscles in the back of the neck and back lengthen.

Use a travel pillow to support the neck while traveling.  Stretching all of the neck and upper back muscles will allow for proper alignment of the neck and spine and reduce any soreness in the areas that may have been slept on improperly.  These stretches can be done from your seat or once you reach your destination.

As you head out this weekend, make sure your body is travel-ready and be mindful of your posture and mobility as you make your way from home to your final destination. Safe travels.

Written by Ariel Scheintaub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.