As the days get colder, you may start to notice discomfort and stiffness in your body. This is a natural and very common occurrence this time of year. When our bodies start to get cold, the first thing we do is hike up our shoulders, round our back and bury our chin. Even while sleeping, we curl into a ball in hopes that we will get that satisfying warmth. And chances are, you are not moving as much as you do in warmer weather.
In colder weather, our nervous system activates changes within our bodies to help regulate body temperature. Vasoconstriction occurs, where muscles tighten to constrict blood vessels throughout the body. Less heat reaches the surface of our bodies and in turn our core temperature can remain steady for our vital organs (Homeostasis).
Our bodies adapt to the positions that they are put in and the conditions they are exposed to. Over time, our muscles will shorten and become stiff.
Having a rounded back and shoulders, along with a protruded chin places a lot of stress on the upper back and shoulders. Stretching the muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulders which all support the cervical and thoracic portion of the spine, provide a lot of relief. Muscles like the trapezius, levator scapula, sternocleidomastoid, and rhomboids. These muscles are also very important for maintaining proper posture. After having these muscles stretched, people often feel taller and more open, and feel relief from pain and stiffness.
Temperature plays an important role in the way your muscles contract. It’s a lot more difficult for muscles to contract in cold weather as opposed to warmer conditions. The temperature affects how easily oxygen is released from hemoglobin to the muscle. In colder weather, the rate that oxygen is released is slower. Which means there is less oxygen available for the muscle, causing the muscle contraction to be difficult. This is where stiffness is felt. Oxygen intake is very important, as it is what fuels the muscle.
By regularly stretching with good form, you are promoting efficient blood circulation. The circulating blood provides oxygenated rich blood and nutrients to the muscle. This fresh blood is what is needed for the muscle to have proper function, strength, and flexibility.
Another way to increase your oxygen intake is to get more exercise. Be sure to warm up with active stretches and movements first. Injuries like muscle strains happen more often while exercising with cold muscles. Active stretching helps blood circulation to the muscles and warms them up.
Let’s continue to stay active and avoid poor movement patterns in the upcoming winter months. This can be achieved by warming up before exercise and properly stretching. Stay warm and BeLYMBR!
Written by, Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Asst Manager in our Darien, CT studio.
We all know how stress affects the mind, but it also affects the muscles in our body. The most common areas we tend to hold stress are in the neck, shoulders, hips, hands and feet. Planning one of your stretch sessions around these areas can help calm your mind and calm your body.
NECK When we experience stressful situations whether in a moment or over time, we tend to feel tension in the neck. Your shoulders hike up, causing tightness in the muscles along the back and side of your neck. Stress puts the neck muscles in a constant state of slight contraction, which can lead to unwanted tension. This tension leads to restricted range of motion, that feeling of having a knot in your neck, and sometimes tension or migraine headaches.
Stretching your neck will provide some relief. Not only is the experience of getting stretched relaxing, but the result is a lengthening of the muscles, allowing them to return to their natural, more relaxed state. Your neck will have greater range of motion, making your head feel lighter and your face more relaxed.
SHOULDERS / UPPER BODY We tend to hold a lot of stress in our shoulders causing them to round or hunch forward. This postural change reduces our mobility and puts added strain on our head, neck and upper back. Rounded shoulders also affect our ability to take full and complete breaths as the space in which our rib cage wants to move is restricted.
Stretching the muscles in your shoulders helps to open up and reduce the built-up tension in the upper body. As the shoulders relax and find their proper state, you experience a more open and relaxed posture. Your rib cage has more room to expand and the strain is taken off your head and neck.
HIPS If you study or practice yoga, you are familiar with the concept that we store a lot of stress and emotions in our hips. We’ve seen clients have an emotional reaction when we make significant improvements to their hip mobility during a session. The stress and restriction in your hips inhibit your comfort and your range of motion. Every movement we make begins with the hips, if they are not properly balanced and mobile, the effects resonate through your body – most commonly in the low back.
When you experience a proper series of stretches to open your hips, the effects can be felt on your entire lower body – you’ll feel lighter and move with more freedom. Some clients report a sense of calm, relaxation and release.
HANDS When we are feeling stressed, the muscles in our hands begin to clench, sometimes we don’t even notice it happening. Even when you are not holding something, they will stay in that tense position. This tension causes constriction to the tendons of the hands from the palm up through the tips of the fingers. This can have a negative impact on the forearm and the elbow. A common example would be similar to carpal tunnel syndrome – as the muscles in the hands and wrists begin to constrict, the nerves become inflamed from all of the pressure.
Stretching the hands will give you a feeling of letting go, literally. The hands will begin to relax releasing the tension from your fingertips up through your forearm.
FEET It is not commonly known that we hold a lot of stress in our feet. The result is restrictions in how the mechanics of our feet perform, especially in the arches, where we carry all of our weight. When the mechanics are not working properly, you put pressure on certain areas of the foot which are not designed to carry the load of your body on their own. The resulting tension and pain can resonate from the feet up the through your calf and behind your knee.
Having your feet and toes stretched may seem like an odd concept but the results are incredible. You’ll feel your toes open and your foot relax. Keeping your feet happy is a major factor in keeping your whole body happy. We ask a lot of our feet and they are so often overlooked.
Keep stress and its affect on your body at bay by taking time out of every day to focus on you. Put your phone down, try some deep breathing, go for a walk, and of course, focus on stretching.
Your posture affects everything you do in life, work and sport. The way we move, or don’t move, through our day has lasting effects on our body. Here are the 5 main areas of which you should be mindful, to minimize the chances of poor posture impeding your day and your ability to be active.
Rounded shoulders are usually one of the first indications of poor posture and some muscular imbalance in that area. Oftentimes, this will suggest that the chest, or pectoral muscles, and the biceps are tight. Shoulders that are rounded forward towards the front of the body shorten these muscles, causing tightness. Daily activities that may cause this include typing at a computer while sitting at a desk or carrying a backpack heavier than it should be. Great stretches to help lengthen these muscles include the doorway stretch pictured below, and child’s pose.
The hip flexor muscles play a vital role in posture, as they connect the torso to the legs, aiding in spine stabilization. Tight hip flexors often reveal an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning the pelvis is rotated forward and the spine exhibits added curvature. The shortening of these muscles, as well as an excessively curved spine, will cause the upper body to be shifted forward. A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for prolonged amounts of time may cause this tightness. To help decrease tension in the hip flexors, make sure to get up and walk around if you find yourself sitting for an extended period of time.
Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
A tight quadratus lumborum, or QL, is often the source of low back pain and an anterior pelvic tilt. The Q Lis located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine. It starts at your lowest rib and ends at the top of your pelvis. Much like the hip flexors, a tight QL can be the result of sitting for long periods of time, sedentary behavior, and weak core muscles. Strengthening the core muscles and stretching the QL through back rotations will help correct this imbalance by bringing the pelvis and spine back to a more neutral position.
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
Are tight lats affecting your posture? Tight latissimus dorsi, or “lats”, can be easily observed during a postural assessment. Look at yourself in the mirror: Is one shoulder higher than the other? If one side of the torso appears shorter than the other, the side that appears shorter is tighter. This imbalance can be caused by carrying a bag on only one side of the body. By carrying a bag on one side, the lats on the other side will start to compensate and shorten for the unilateral added weight. Favoring leaning to one side more when sitting will also cause tension on that side’s lats. Make sure to properly stretch both side lats during the day. If a shoulder bag is being used, make a conscious effort to not overstuff it so that the spine can stay aligned, and alternate carrying on your left and right side. The stretch pictured below is one of many to target this area, and is a fan favorite amongst our clients.
Stiffness in the neck muscles will also cause a shift in posture. In today’s technology-based society, it is easy to find ourselves looking down at some sort of screen, whether it be at a monitor in the office, or a phone on the commute home. This repetitive stance of looking down causes the muscles in the front of the neck to tighten and the head to protrude forward, placing it out of line with the spine. Bringing any electronics in use to eye level, as well as making a conscious effort to sit up straight, will aim to prevent this imbalance.
Good posture takes practice and mindfulness of how you carry yourself throughout your day. Better posture leads to a better, more comfortable life.
Written by, Emma Younghans and Ariel Scheintaub, Stretch Therapists in Tribeca.
As our Hamptons studio at the SoulCycle BARN gets busier with riders, we’re helping more and more clients get more out of every class, and participate in more rides.
Spinning has become a dominant force in the fitness industry. As its popularity increases, so does the necessity for understanding spinning’s impact on the body. These classes provide a great way to sweat, burn calories, and have fun while doing it. Yet as more time is spent on the bike, more pressure is put on the muscles tasked to complete the pedaling action. The muscles most affected by the repetitive motion, also happen to be some of the largest in the human body; your quads, glutes, and upper back musculature.
The quads are broken up into four muscles, hence the name “quad”. The quad muscles assist with the extension of the knee and are used for activities like walking, running, and other physical activities like spinning. With the high intensity demands of spinning classes, extra strain can be placed on the quad and the various points at which they insert or attach. This increases the possibility of strain and injury in the knee, hip, and low back. As the quads become tight they are unable to extend the knee fully, placing greater strain on the knee, hip, and low back to complete the motion. Tight quads will also pull your pelvis down, creating a pelvic tilt. This will throw your low back out of alignment and produce low back pain. A great way to avoid these injuries is by getting stretched. LYMBR therapists can reset a pelvic tilt in less than 3 minutes, and our quad stretches restore mobility and function to the quadriceps. By creating greater function, we allow the muscles to better assist with the extension of the knee, thus removing stress on the knee, the pelvis and therefore the low back.
The glutes are made up of three muscles: The glute maximus, the glute medius, and the glute minimus. Each muscle serves an important purpose in spinning, primarily dealing with extension at the hip, or the downward “push” of your stride. The glute max is one of the primary movers in spinning and creates the “push” off the pedal. The glute medius serves as a pelvic stabilizer during dynamic movements. As the spinner lifts one foot up and drives the other down, glute medius holds the pelvis in a neutral position. This lessens the chance of a low back or pelvic injury. Glute medius can be especially tight for females due to women having anatomically wider pelvis. The glute minimus helps shift your body weight to keep you balanced while pedaling. To ensure the glutes are performing all of these tasks, it’s important to stretch and take your glutes through their full range of motion. Keeping the glutes loose will keep the pelvis stable while you ride, assist with balance, and will ensure that you are not compensating with other muscles to complete the hip extension.
UPPER BACK AND SHOULDERS
Although they’re certainly not as common, upper back and shoulder injuries can also occur from spinning classes. The upper back, specifically your traps, lats, and rear delts (shoulders), are responsible for holding your body upright as well as stabilizing the shoulder through dynamic movement. When people spin, they often get into the habit of hunching over the handlebars and tensing up their shoulders. What this does is lengthen these muscles to the point where they are no longer able to function. Since these muscles do so much to facilitate posture, as their function begins to waver, so will your posture. Your chest will begin to tighten as well as your core, your pelvis will tilt, and your shoulders will lose stability. By stretching out your chest, core, shoulders, and neck we can restore proper length to shortened muscles and therefore take pressure off your back and rear shoulders. This will help reaffirm correct posture and make your experience on the bike much more comfortable.
Spinning is a fantastic form of exercise. You can burn calories, exercise your heart, increase endurance, lower body fat, all while being a part of a larger community of people trying to improve themselves. Like any activity, however, it’s best to start slow, and always listen to your body. We all have activities we love to do. If spinning is yours, then why not make sure your body is in its most mobile, functional state so you can make the most of every class.
Written by Conner Fritchley, Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio.
“You’re not a rider unless you’ve fallen off seven times.” This is one of many proven mantras in the Equestrian community. Equestrians are some of the toughest and strongest athletes I have come to know during my lifetime. Over time, we riders learn numerous aids, cues, and body positions to influence and support a horse’s movement. A full day of schooling, showing, and barn chores can leave us aching and exhausted. As hopeful lifelong equestrians, we need to start thinking about how our own body’s health and flexibility affect the flexibility we strive for in our four legged partners.
How can LYMBR help improve your riding?
I have been an avid horse-lover, rider, and competitor since the age of 5. Spending hours in the saddle can really take a toll on your body, and it wasn’t until coming to LYMBR after a fall that I started to connect some dots. Equestrians tend to be creatures of habit. We mount, dismount, tack up, and connect with our horses through groundwork, always on the left side. It’s a repetitive lifestyle, and constantly performing the same movements over and over again creates muscle imbalances in our body. Imbalances lead to discomfort and often times pain. No matter their discipline, most equestrians struggle with tightness and sore muscles in the hips, adductors, glutes, calves, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck. We spend a lot of time and effort caring for our horses and honing in on our connection in the saddle;why don’t we spend as much time and effort on our own bodies?
As a therapist and a client, LYMBR has helped me understand both the individual functions of muscles and how they work together while in motion. Because each LYMBR session is completely personalized, everything is catered to reach your goals. With therapists experienced in a wide variety of sports and exercise modalities LYMBR is able target those tense muscles through an intricate series of stretches. Learning how to target and lengthen those muscles while strengthening their counterparts has enhanced my riding enormously. Remember, for every working muscle, there is anopposing muscle working in the other direction. Also because I have become more open and available through stretching my connection to my horse feels stronger.
Lets go deeper…
The pelvis and lower back are irritated in practically every rider. Riding can actually promote and enhance stiffness that leads to poor riding posture. It can block aids and movements from you to the horse creating a domino effect. Our hips are another point of interest, while riding, they are in constant flexion, leaving our hamstrings lengthened. Often when a rider is swinging their legs or cannot keep their legs in alignment, it is because our hamstrings are not as strong as our hips. We strive for symmetry in our horses and our own posture; we want to make it look like riding is easy! If we are dealing with discrepancies in our bodies, it will affect the way your horse responds while under saddle. This is why these issues can and should be addressed out of the saddle.
Whether you are a new rider who wants to help recover those newly hard-working muscles or a seasoned competitor hoping to improve for this upcoming show season, better mobility, flexibility and range of motion that comes from proper stretching will help take your riding to the next level.
Written by Samantha Fabrikant, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Equestrian.