It’s that time of year when we set new fitness and wellness goals for the new year. We put a lot of emotion and energy in setting these goals and picture ourselves succeeding. When you are confident in how your body moves and feels, you’ll have the best chance at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.
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. You deserve the best change to be successful.
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.
Overuse injuries are exactly what they sound like; repetitive action that degrades motor function over time causing muscles, bones, joints and tendons to become overused and injured. Any fitness nut, athlete, spin addict, weekend warrior, or marathon junkie can attest to the perils of overuse injuries. It makes your favorite activities a painstaking hellscape that seems unavoidable, due to one’s inability or reluctance to stop. However, your body needs rest and recovery relative to the intensity of the activity. If you ignore this, you are stifling an important internal process of your body.
Everybody has a built-in operation called the internal remodeling process. It has to do with the breakdown of tissue through activity and the subsequent rebuilding of that tissue through rest and recovery. If that balance is not maintained then your bones, tendons, joints, and muscles start to break down. We see this issue a lot with adults, but we’re beginning to see it at alarmingly high rate in youth athletes between the ages of 10-18. (Scroll to the end of this post to read two client stories.)
So why is this happening?
Sport specialization has become more popular in the past 20 years, and we’re seeing more kids becoming single sport athletes to hone their skills in one sport. The thought process behind this is that with more emphasis on sport specific competition this athlete could one day perform at a collegiate, Olympic, or professional level. Sport specialization, however, is entirely misguided in thinking a child, or anyone for that matter, can do the same thing, at the same intensity, for the same amount of time almost every day for a year. You are creating a system where only the resilient survive, and even they don’t move like they’re supposed to. Not even the best athletes in the world train at that intensity, for that amount of time, with the same activity. They do cross training (athletic training in sports other than the athlete’s usual sport.) like yoga, running, swimming, biking, in order to take pressure off of their bones, muscles, joints, and tendons that have been overused during their season. They also have a minimum 3-5 month off season to recuperate, get their strength back, and give their bodies a chance to recover. So why are we training our kids opposite to the professionals they’re aspiring to be?
With the goal of performing at higher levels of play, there is a precedent on skill development and strengthening with considerably less regard to rest and recovery. Skill and strength work are extremely important for honing motor development and creating muscle adaptation within the athlete. Having said that, the period where actual strength is formed is during recovery when muscle tissue is being rebuilt. Yet the focus is on developing skills that are utterly useless without a functional body, and the amount of micro-trauma we’re creating makes functionality impossible. As we continue to overuse our muscles, they become weak and unable to fire correctly which results in injury. Even if the overused areas don’t injure you right away, the lack of function from these areas will cause compensatory movement, which will then create injury. The old adage “Kids are young, they bounce back” is only true for so long. Rubber bands can be stretched and stretched while still keeping a level of elasticity. Until it snaps. Then it doesn’t matter how much tape or stapling you do to put it back together, it will never be the same as it was before.
There are many ways to prevent overuse injuries, the best way is to make sure competition readiness never takes priority over proper rest and recovery. This means limiting weekly and annual participation, as well as limiting sport specific movements such as pitching, kicking, or running. Getting a trainer and a seasoned coach to monitor the athlete through adolescent growth to limit negative adaptations like diminished bone mineral density, improper growth patterns, and weakness of growth cartilage is also a good idea. A good trainer can help the athlete avoid over training and overuse injuries through periodized training programs (progressive training that has loading and de-loading phases to limit over stressing the body prior to competition). Good coaching will also stress proper training techniques such as proper duration, intensity and frequency of sessions. Again, this comes from seasoned coach that can assist with the progression of training and technique rather than arbitrary skill development.
3 Ways LYMBR aids in overuse recovery and injury prevention:
Active Stretching: We perform active stretching in order to return function, create balance, and increase active range of motion to your muscles and joints. LYMBR stretch therapists can stretch damaged connective tissues, draw out inflammation, lactic acid, fill muscles with oxygenated blood, and return active range of motion to your joint, which will limit compensation and speed up recovery.
At-home modalities: LYMBR therapists can also recommend some recovery modalities that you can do at home to further your efforts such as stretches to help maintain the work done in the studio, and the use of heat and ice.
Corrective exercises: As all LYMBR staff are certified personal trainers, we can also recommend some corrective exercises to strengthen weak or under-utilized muscles, as well as speak to proper technique when it comes to exercise. Our new Strengthening Protocols can also aid in recovery as many have a corrective nature to them.
One client is a 13-year-old female who participated in lacrosse and swimming. This particular athlete did both activities 5 days a week with a scarce amount of time being spent on rest and recovery. Her mother told us that her swimming coach was noticing limitations in her shoulder mobility, she was unable to touch her toes, and experienced violent ankle pain during and after lacrosse to the point where they were planning on going in for surgery. We did three assessments to see where we needed to focus our attention. I noticed from her postural assessment that her shoulders were rounded forward and her hands were positioned in front of her body rather than the side. Her pelvic assessment showed a very tilted pelvis that made it so one leg was longer than the other. Her walking assessment showed an inability to plantar flex the foot, making her hamstrings do all the work in creating forward momentum. After 30 minutes of stretching her feet, ankles, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, lower and mid back, she was able to extend her shoulders in almost perfect range of motion. She had no foot or ankle pain and was able to touch her palms to the floor. Her and her mother were ecstatic, and from then on, she saw me twice a week, every week, for an hour each session. She was able to continue both sports and was able to perform them both with maximal effort and minimal pain. She never went to surgery for her feet, and to this day does not experience any ankle or foot pain. She progressed and learned so much in her time here that she only comes in on a maintenance basis. Once or twice every two months with periodic checks. This athlete is a perfect example of why recovery and rest are so important. She went from almost having to quit both sports and undergo invasive surgery, to being able to participate and excel in her two favorite activities.
Another athlete is a 16-year-old football player who was experiencing pain and cramping in his calves during and after practice regardless of how much water he drank. This was limiting his ability to sprint and be explosive which was impacting his lifting and performance in practice and games. During his walking assessment I noticed that he was very flat footed and was unable to flex his ankle. We began working on his ankle, foot, and toe mobility as well as targeting his hamstrings and glutes. As he continued coming once a week for an hour and progressed through more difficult at home stretches, he was able to go through practices and games with no calf cramping or pain. He was able to add 50 pounds to his squat, shaved half a second off his 40-yard dash, and starts on his JV team. He now only comes twice a month for maintenance purposes and continues to use the stretches I’ve given him at home. This athlete put the same amount of effort into his recovery as he did his practice, and for that reason was able to perform at an optimal level. By eliminating pain and cramping in his calf, he was able to detach from the distractions of his physical body and focus on becoming better at the sport he loves.
If you have any questions about youth athletics in regard to movement, performance, relaxation, or recovery, please do not hesitate to seek us out. We want to make sure that every athlete can enjoy their sport, injury-free, with their most functional body.
Written by, Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio.
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.