Too often, we take our exercise regime very seriously, and often don’t even think much about stretching. However, the longer we go without introducing a number of stretches into our routine, the more inflexible we’ll become as time goes on.
Babies, little kids and animals are incredibly flexible, and they stretch sub-consciously without even realizing what they are doing. We adults however, have lost that ability and have to re-learn what we once intuitively knew. Added to this is the problem that as we age, our tendons shrink! It's a joy to live in a flexible, pain-free body, so let's get STRETCHING!
The DVD below left has a stretch for every major muscle group in your body (including neck). If you don't need it, maybe your Mum would love it!
Check out our series of Pilates Videos - including a workout with 25 stretches. Knowing how dogs and cats love to stretch, we went to the zoo and filmed gorgeous footage of Australian animals stretching - they we copied them! You'll love it. Click:
You would have observed how a much-loved pet wakes up. While sleeping, they often curl up into a tight ball, which contracts many muscles. However, they intuitively know that they must stretch out their hamstrings when they wake.
It just feels sooo good!
They don't, as in this pic, stand on their back legs to do so, they usually stretch out their leg behind them. But, this is one of the ways you can stretch your hamstrings.
Here's my daughter Stephanie, trying to imitate her friend Max. He's the expert at the Downward Dog, but Steph is trying hard. Is that a patient grin on his face? Her hamstrings are getting a nice little stretch as well. There you go, 2 stretches accomplished at the same time.
Some folk have sedentary lifestyles or perhaps sit all day long at a desk. These are sure fire methods of becoming very inflexible. As we sit, our hamstrings and quads tighten up. That's why you often hear older people sigh or grunt as they get up out of a chair. It's never too late to start stretching muscles. I've had enormous success with people, even in their 80's with stretching techniques.
Muscles attached to our shoulder girdle and hips, become stiff and stagnant when we don't use our upper body as much as we should. Muscles atrophy and tighten. Blood doesn’t flow easily through these muscles. Tight muscles WILL NOT strengthen. So you can keep running all you like, but if your hamstrings are tight, they won’t function well for you (nor will your quads). Work on your hamstrings and improve your performance. Similarly, if your back muscles are weak, your shoulders will "curl" forward and chest muscle will tighten up. Strengthen your back and core muscles and work on your chest muscles to loosen their grip.
As we age, our tendons tighten up, which also increases our inflexibility. When you stretch a muscle, you also involve its tendon. It will take a bit of time to encourage these tendons and muscles to “let go”, but believe me, with effort, they will.
Do you have cramping of muscles? Another important thing for you to know about keeping muscles and tendons flexible, is the necessary mineral, magnesium, in your body. This is a mineral which is highly diminished in 95% of Australians. Speak to your health practitioner to determine whether you are one of these people. Magnesium Orotate or Magnesium Phosphate are excellent sources of the mineral.
If you don’t have access to a class, a stretching video is an excellent solution. A good video is often perfect, because you can do your regime at the end of your day at home.