Taking A Stand
Our bodies were built to move. As anyone who has stopped their fitness routine and restarted knows, muscle and joint stiffness develops quickly when we stop moving and our muscles take time to get back to the strength level we had before we stopped. What might not be as apparent is the damage that sitting in an office chair at work all day does to our bodies. We lose a muscle-mind connection with our glutes and our hip flexors tighten up, which makes it difficult for us to walk with good posture. Our shoulders slouch forward as we furiously fire off another email about someone eating our break room snacks, putting our spine in an unfavorable position.
Staying active with your cardio and strength training will help ward off the pounds and keep your heart healthy, but addressing your (lack of) flexibility is crucial to maintaining your overall wellness. Incorporate these stretches into your everyday activities and “walking tall” will be more than just about attitude!
This one is a great dynamic stretch that hits those hip flexors but also helps stretch out other leg muscles at the same time. Get down on one knee, and then extend the leg back behind you; you should feel the tightness near the top of your leg. Place the hand opposite this leg on the top of your foot with your arm inside your knee, and your other hand on the ground. Applying pressure to the top of your foot with your hand to keep it in place, deepen the stretch in the back leg by leaning toward the opposite knee, allowing the opposite knee drop outside the foot. Repeat with the opposite leg.
This stretch opens up our core and helps lengthen the spine. Lie flat on your stomach with the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders like a push-up and press your torso up off of the floor, but make sure to keep your hips on the floor. You should feel the stretch in your abdominal muscles.
Towel Stretch for Shoulders
This stretch should help reverse some of that shoulder slouch. Take a towel and hold it behind your back, grabbing an end with each hand slightly outside your hips, as if it was a sweater you were going to tie around your waist but with your palms facing back. Lean forward slightly and try to raise the towel while keeping your arms straight; you should feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder and possibly your chest muscles.
A tight chest pulls your shoulders forward, exacerbating slouching; this stretch is a must, especially if you bench press or do other chest-focused weight training! Stand in a doorway place your palm and forearm on the jamb; your upper arm should be parallel with the ground. Turn your body away from your arm; repeat with other arm.
Peer-a-what now? Your piriformis is a muscle in your buttocks that tends to get neglected. Sitting on a bench, cross your right ankle on your left knee, like you might if you were sitting casually. Place light pressure on the inside of your right knee with your right hand, and gradually lean forward until you feel the stretch in your right buttock. Keep your upper body relaxed. Repeat with the opposite leg.