August 13, 2012

Motivation Monday: Stretch and Workout

Exercise and Stretch
Exercise is good for you, great for you even!  You will be hard pressed to find a doctor that will not recommend daily exercise as part of  a balanced lifestyle. But this is old news.  You are reading this and thinking: I know, I know! Something you may not know, however, is that stretching is just as important as exercising.
Have you ever seen the guy in the gym with big muscles in his neck and shoulders who has absolutely no range of motion in his arms-to the point he can't turn his head without moving his whole upper body? I guarantee he doesn't stretch!
So just what is happening in your body when you are straining to touch your toes? Stretching lengthens muscle tissue making our muscles more flexible and less prone to injury.  It also enhances blood flow to muscle groups which help warm it up and prepares it for exercise.  Therefore, stretching is important for several reasons. When muscles are tight they are more prone to injury...gentle stretching helps to correct muscle imbalances and therefore relieves pain in muscles and joints.
Now you might be thinking:  Yes, stretching does sound very important-for a marathon runner, yoga enthusiast, or body builder-but I don't even have a gym membership.  As it tuns out, stretching is essential for all of us.  Even if you don't go to the gym, you should make time for basic stretching.
People who do not allocate at least some time for stretching out (gym or no gym) are far more likely to end up in physical therapy later in life.
Here are a few fundamental tips on stretching for beginners and exercise enthusiasts alike.  You have to hold each stretch for 30 seconds.  Stretches done for less than 30 seconds do not actually change muscle length.  Be sure to static (no Bounce) Stretch, it is more beneficial.
It is best to warm up for a few minutes before stretching.  Maybe go for a 5 min walk or even jog in place.  When you exercise and strengthen muscle you are actually increasing the size/bulk of the muscle, making the muscle shorter. Think about muscles around joints like pulleys. When one side of the pulley system is shortened the pulley will not work as effectively and may even break (injury). Stretching muscles before and after exercise helps to prevent the muscle from shortening as you strengthen, thereby keeping the balance in the pulley system.
Begin your stretching routine with some of the more common and beneficial stretches. The most common stretches are the hamstring stretch, quadriceps stretch, and the doorway stretch. The muscle groups are tight in most people simply because they sit all day.  Sitting at a desk puts the hamstring muscle group in the shortened position which makes it tight.  Quadriceps run across two joints, the hip and the knee, so when you are sitting, this muscle gets tight along the hip.  These tight muscles can sometimes be the culprit behind LBP (lower back pain).  People with LBP usually have tight hamstrings/quadriceps and benefit from stretching.  The doorway stretch is a great stretch for posture.
Most people who have poor posture straighten up after introducing a stretching routine into their daily lifestyle.  One thing to keep in mind when stretching is that moderation is key.  You can overstretch so take it easy.  You might think it hard to overstretch, but just think of your muscles like rubber bands.  Stretching to much can make rubber bands lose their elasticity and loose muscles can make joints become hyper mobile.
So how much is to much?
Every body is different, just listen to your own and you'll be fine.
I have put together a little stretching routine followed by an interval workout (below) to get you started.  Have fun!
Stretching and Flexibility Workout

Chest Stretch with a Resistance Band

This is a great stretch for the muscles of the chest as well as the front of the shoulders. This is a particularly good stretch if you spend much of your time typing on a computer or driving, which often means your shoulders are hunched forward for hours at a time.
Sit or stand and hold a resistance band in a wide grip.
Take the band straight up over the head with arms in a v shape. There should be some tension on the band, so adjust your hand position as needed to create more or less tension.
Pull the hands apart and down, taking the arms just slightly back as you lower them down.
Lower down until you feel a gentle stretch in the chest and shoulders.
Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Tips
If you don't have a band, you can try this move by using a doorway - simply prop your arms on either side of the door and gently press forward until you feel a stretch in the chest.
If you have shoulder problems, you may want to avoid this stretch. It does involve the rotator cuff muscles, which may cause problems with some exercisers.
Keep the abs in and make sure there's enough tension on the band to feel a stretch across the front of the chest.
Calf Stretch

A basic calf stretch should always be a part of any post-workout flexibility routine, especially after cardio exercise. Almost every cardio workout will involve heavy use of the calves and it's easy for those muscles to become tight over time if you don't stretch them.
Begin on your hands and knees and straighten the legs, taking the hips towards the ceiling in an upside-down v-shape.
Bend the right knee and straighten the left leg, pushing the heel towards the floor, feeling a stretch in the calf.
Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
You don't have to touch the heel to the floor. Only push the heel as far down as you comfortably can.
Tips
You can also do this move while standing against a wall or by standing on a step and dropping the heels down towards the floor.
Bend the knee of the leg you're stretching to get a deeper stretch.
Kneeling Calf Stretch

The traditional calf stretch is great for stretching the outer part of the calf, or the gastrocnemius. There is a smaller muscle that lies under the gastric called the soleus. To target this muscle, try a kneeling stretch. This stretch is a bit more subtle and may require shifting your position to find what feels best for you.
Kneel on the floor and bring the left foot forward between the hands.
Gently press your body forward while pressing the heel towards the floor, feeling a stretch in the calf.
The heel doesn't have to be on the floor. Only press the heel down as far as you comfortably can.
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Tips
If you find this position difficult or can't get a deep enough stretch, try the move standing. Simply stand in a split stance and bend the knees, keeping the back heel pressing into the floor.
Press your chest into your knee to get more leverage, but avoid any jerking or bouncing, which could cause injury.
Chest and Abs Stretch on the Ball

This exercise is perfect for stretching the chest and abs. By relaxing on the ball and letting your arms fall out to the side, you can stretch the entire front body while getting full support from the ball.
Lie face up on the ball and roll down until your back, head and neck are fully supported.
Relax your hips and let your arms fall out to the sides for a relaxing chest stretch.
Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat as many times as you like.
Body Stretch on the Ball

After a workout, there's nothing better than a relaxing, whole body stretch. This exercise fits the bill, allowing you to stretch your entire body while being supported on the ball. You might want to skip this exercise if you feel dizzy or disoriented with your head upside down.
Sit on the ball and roll forward until you're at an incline.
Straighten the legs and stretch your body back, arms over the head.
Drape yourself over the ball, letting your head relax and your arms hang towards the floor.
Relax and breathe, holding for 15-20 seconds.
Hip Stretch on the Ball

If you sit at a desk for much of the day, you probably have tight hips that could use a good stretch. This hip stretch, sometimes called a pretzel stretch, allows you to stretch all the small muscles that support the hips and pelvis. The ball allows you to deepen the stretch will giving the lower body some support.
Lie on the floor and put your right foot on top of the ball, foot flexed.
Cross the left foot over the right knee and use the right foot to gently roll the ball in until the right knee is bent to about 90 degrees.
You can gently press the left knee open to deepen the stretch.
Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lying Quad Stretch

The front of the body, including the hips and quads, often don't get much of a stretch in daily life. This lying quad stretch is a great way to gently stretch the front of the thighs as well as the hip flexors.
Sit on the floor with the right leg bent in front of you, left leg bent behind you.
Lean to the right on the forearm. abs engaged.
Grab onto the top of the left foot with the left hand.
Gently pull the heel towards the glutes to stretch the front of the thigh.
Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Hamstring Stretch

Tight hamstrings can cause a number of problems including knee pain, back pain or even pulled muscles. Taking time to stretch after a workout or after sitting for long periods of time can keep the hamstrings flexible and supple. This seated stretch is a great way to build flexibility in the hamstrings from a supported position.
Sit on a step or on a chair with another chair in front of you.
Stretch the left leg out on the step, keeping the right foot on the floor for support.
Sit up tall and lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Avoid rounding forward, but keep the torso as straight as you can.
Use your left hand on the thigh, shin or foot to gently pull forward, deepening the stretch.
Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 1-3 times on each leg.
Iliotlibial Band Stretch

The iliotibial band (which is part of the tensor fasciae latae muscle) attaches at the hip and runs down the side of the leg to the knee. Keeping the IT band flexible can help you avoid knee pain that can sometimes happen if the IT band becomes tight. Runners are especially vulnerable to IT band syndrome, but every exerciser can benefit from regularly stretching this part of the lower body.
Take the left foot behind and to the right of the right leg.
Take the left arm up and gently lean the right.
As you lean to the right, gently press the left hip out to the side to feel a stretch down the side of the leg.
Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 1-3 sets on each side.
Knee Crossover Stretch

This stretch is great for targeting the hips, iliotibial band and the lower back. The key to this move is to bring the knee across the body, just a few inches, while keeping both hips down. You may want to avoid this stretch if you have knee problems.
Lie down and bring the right knee in towards the chest.
Keeping both hips on the floor, gently pull the right knee a few inches across the body, towards the left shoulder.
You should feel a stretch in the hip and down the outside of the right leg.
Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 1-3 sets on both legs.

30-60-90 - Mixed Interval Training
This mixed interval workout is a type of high intensity interval training (HIIT) that helps build endurance, increase your anaerobic threshold and burn more calories and fat both during and after your workout.  For this workout, you'll cycle through three levels of intensity during your work sets - very hard (e.g., Level 9 perceived exertion), moderately hard (e.g., Level 8) and somewhat hard (e.g., Level 7). 
You can do this workout on any cardio machine (set to manual mode) or with any outdoor activity.
Time
Intensity/Speed
Perceived Exertion
5 min.
Warm up at an easy-moderate pace
4-5
5 min.
Baseline: Increase speed gradually to slightly harder than comfortable
5

Mixed Interval Block 1

30 seconds
Increase your pace/resistance to work all out
9
30 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
60 seconds
 Increase your pace/resistance to work very hard
8
60 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
90 seconds
Increase pace/resistance to work at a moderate-hard pace
7
90 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5

Mixed Interval Block 2

90 seconds
Increase pace/resistance to work at a moderate-hard pace
7
90 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
60 seconds
 Increase your pace/resistance to work very hard
8
60 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
30 seconds
Increase your pace/resistance to work all out
9
30 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5

Mixed Interval Block 3

30 seconds
Increase your pace/resistance to work all out
9
30 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
60 seconds
 Increase your pace/resistance to work very hard
8
60 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
90 seconds
Increase pace/resistance to work at a moderate-hard pace
7
90 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5

Mixed Interval Block 4

90 seconds
Increase pace/resistance to work at a moderate-hard pace
7
90 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
60 seconds
 Increase your pace/resistance to work very hard
8
60 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5
30 seconds
Increase your pace/resistance to work all out
9
30 seconds
Reduce speed to a comfortable pace to fully recover
4-5

Cool Down

5 min
Cool down at an easy pace
3-4
Total :
39 Minutes

















 







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