Health > Keeping Fit > Stretch Yourself
STRETCH YOURSELF AND TURN OUT THINNER, FITTER, FASTER
Easy moves to fine-tune your posture, your proportions, your coordination and your fitness
HOW TO DO IT
First, choose your primary stretching goal - relaxation, recuperation or perceptivity warm-up. The goal in stretching for relaxation is to reduced muscle tension throughout the body.
For recuperative stretching, the focus is on specific areas of tightness. Find a position that elongates the tight muscle, hold it, then increase the force of the stretch in small, gentle increments. The whole stretch takes about 30 seconds. Move slowly, or else you’ll activate the body’s automatic stretch reflex, which causes muscles to contract.
WHEN TO DO IT
To prepare for a stretch workout, it’s a good idea to do a few minutes of light, whole-body activity - walking, jogging in place, cycling - so the muscles are warm and pliable. Then do your stretching. For relaxation and recuperation, do your likely to be interrupted. If you’re stiff or find stretching physically uncomfortable, do it in the morning.
WHEN NOT TO DO IT
Don’t stretch if you’ve really hurt yourself. Whether you’ve pulled a muscle or sprained a joint, lay off any stretching for 24 to 72 hours and consult your doctor.
WHAT BODY CHANGES TO EXPERT
When you stretch, you’re elongating both muscle and connective tissue (the tendons, fasciae and ligaments, which connect bone to muscle, and bone to bone). Longer muscles look leaner. And good muscle elasticity promotes agility, creates the potential for greater speed and reduces risk of injury. Wiping out muscular tension improves the way you hold your body, so posture gets better, movements become more graceful and conscious.
USING A BALL TO STRETCH
Put a new spin on a stretching routine by using a ball. For each position, visualize breathing deeply into the areas that feel tight, until you feel the muscles release.
(1) To release tension in the front of the chest and stomach, position the ball just under the ribs. Relax into ball, supporting body weight with hands as needed. Breathe.
(2) To stretch out the small of the back, place the ball right under your tailbone, with legs bent as shown below. Roll the ball slightly forward your shoulders to lengthen back. Breathe.
(3) To relieve an aching neck, pillow your head on the ball as shown below. Breathe. Try to relax your shoulders to the floor for a maximum stretch.
(4) To alleviate on-the-spot tension in the upper back and shoulders, droop yourself over the ball and relax your arms overhead. Breathe.
(5) to lengthen the waist and stretch the sides of the for so, balance on the ball as shown below. Steady yourself by placing one foot in front of you. Breathe. Repeat on opposite side.
(6) Advanced side stretch: Balance on the ball with both legs together. Slowly roll your body along ball up toward underarm to release tension in the rib cage and shoulders. Breathe. Repeat on opposite side.