5 Stretches You Need To Know
Updated: Sep 20, 2020
In the past 5 months, the COVID-19 Pandemic has inadvertently turned us into seasoned desk jockeys or created that long lasting groove in our sofa or chair. And, just in case we didn't notice, our glutes and hips are reminding us of that as we get up and walk around with undesirable tightness.
I can remember the countless times I lost track of the hours while at my desk. I'd be focused on the work in front and fell into a groove that I didn't want to lose. If you're anything like me, getting into a zone can sometimes be harder than the task itself. And, not only would I go beyond an hour of sitting, punishing my hips and lower back, my posture would also deteriorate over time. After a certain amount of time, my face would go from 2 feet away from the screen to, what felt like, 2 inches from the computer screen. I'd fall into a "desk trans." By the time I realized what kind of position I was in, my body had already become tight and getting up from my chair would be accompanied by a few grunts of soreness. Fortunately, as a fitness professional, I'm now mostly on my feet and moving around.
Be mindful of your body's desire to be mobile and free. You may need an hourly alarm to remind you to move around a bit. Sometimes, my Apple Watch would buzz with a little reminder to at least stand. Whenever possible, take a few minutes to refresh the muscles with some flexibility and mobility exercises. Include it as part of your regular workout program or nightly routine, perhaps.
"Motion is lotion and movement is medicine." - Todd Durkin
A flexibility and mobility workout session may not be as attractive as a rip-your-heart-out-can't-feel-my-legs WOD (workout of the day) but, it's an essential component in your overall fitness strategy. Extended periods of time sitting can create tightness throughout the body as a I previously described. Regular stretching is your lifetime access pass to all-you-can-sweat WODs.
Stretch It Out
The following movements are great for the office and pretty much anywhere. Give them a try. All you need is a place to sit, which is not hard to find. Spend about 30 to 60 seconds on each one and per side, if required. Why not out this article and keep it accessible?
Scapular Retraction Hold
Place your hands by your sides. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and keep them tight to the body. Squeeze your shoulders back and push them down away from the ears making your neck long. Try to "put" your elbows into your back pockets.
A great thing to know about the position, is that it should be one of the steps in setting up for about any exercise like the tricep pushdown, the bicep curl, the bench press, and the deadlift, just to name a few.
Warrior Hip Opener
Start with your feet very wide apart, approximately double shoulder width, and toes pointing forward. Turn the right foot out so your feet are on perpendicullar lines. Then, turn the left hip in the direction of the right foot. Keeping the chest puffed out/posture tall and the abdominals stretched, slowly and gently push the right knee forward. If you feel the right heel lifting up, widen your stance. Hold the left hip as square as possible, turned towards the right, in the direction of the right foot. Repeat on other the side.
Bend your arm 90 degrees and raise your elbow to armpit height with the palm facing forward. Line up and press your forearm along the door jamb, or a pole. Keeping the chest up, step forward with the inside foot until you feel a slight tension in the outer part of the chest, near the shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
Scapular Opening (Upper Back Stretch)
Clasp both hands together. Roll them out so that the palms face forward with the arms extended at armpit height. Slightly bend the knees and tilt the hips forward in a posterior pelvic tilt - show-off your belt buckle. Tuck your head between your arms, looking down at your feet, and push your hands forward, stretching out the arm and opening up the upper back.
Seated Figure-4 Stretch
Sitting on a chair, place your right ankle on the left thigh, just above the knee. Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed (see Scapular Retraction Hold), hinge forward from the hips while gently pulling the right knee up. A great way to make sure you're hinging from the hips and not rounding your back is to bring the belly button to the thigh while keeping your chest up in the direction of your gaze and pushing your bum back. Repeat on the other side.
Mindful Meditative Stretching
Now, mindful meditative stretching is not a scientific concept; it's an opportunity to be present and create a connection with your body. It's a chance to tune in and take inventory of what it's feeling, you know, the daily sensations you take for granted.
As you perform the flexibility and mobility movements:
Breathe in through the nose for a 4 second count, pause for another 4-count, exhale gently through the mouth for a final 4-count, and repeat the process. It doesn't have to be a 4 second count, it's just a recommendation. Go with what's comfortable that will help slow things down.
Breathe through the belly. As you inhale, your diaphragm expands, creating a rise in the belly. As you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes causing the belly to go down. Use that rise and fall movement as an anchor to be present and helping you let go of any thoughts and emotions.
With every calming exhale, gently go deeper into the stretch.