At the gym, I usually witness an average of 80 people working out on either the cardio machines or free weights at any given time. I also notice the stretching area averaging only about eight people on a daily basis. That’s only 10 percent of gym-goers consistently work on their flexibility and mobility.
I’m not sure of the actual percentage of people who work on flexibility on a larger scale, but if my gym observation is an example of the entire population, no wonder there are so many people complaining of body aches and pains. I know time is always an issue — everyone is so busy with other priorities. But when you try to save time by focusing on torching calories instead of flexibility, it can lead to tightness the following few days after a workout and possibly worsen imbalances long term.
Exercise should feel uncomfortable at times, but never painful. Here are a few of my favorite ways to help avoid pain before a good workout. See my next article for my recommended post- workout stretches.
And as always, check with your doctor before you follow any new movement program. You may have limitations that need to be addressed and further modifications may be necessary.
Pre-workout Dynamic (active) Stretches:
1. March. Stand with an upright torso. Lift one leg in the air with a bent knee until the quad is at least parallel to the floor without changing the posture of your back. Then set the foot down and switch legs. Alternate for ten steps on each leg.
2. Heel Kicks. Lift one foot off the floor flexing at the knee to kick your behind with your heel. Keep your back in a stable neutral position so that the stretch remains in the front of the leg. Alternate ten kicks with each leg. [photo: “heel kicks”]
3. Bridge. Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor until your torso and top of your legs are in a straight line. Focus on contracting your glute muscles. Also activate your upper back muscles by pressing your arms into the floor as you lift your hips. Repeat the lift ten times. [photo: bridge]
4. Runners Lunge with Rotation (thoracic spine mobility). Place your hands on the floor (or blocks for modification). Step back with one leg into a deep lunge. Keep the back leg straight and the front heel planted into the floor at all times. Keep the head and shoulders lifted so they are in line with your spine. Then lift the same arm as the leg that is bent and reach it straight up toward the ceiling. Keep your gaze up at your lifted arm. Try this movement five times on each side.
5. Lateral Lunge. Step one leg out to the side so your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Bend the knee of the leg that took the step by pressing the hips back so your weight is in your heels. Keep the stable leg straight. (Use a bar to hold for modification.) Try this five times per side.
These stretches should take no more than about five minutes out of your day and will help you progress in your overall flexibility and mobility. Keep yourself continuing to move with ease through each passing year!
For more inspiration, visit Kiley’s website at www.kfitnyc.com. Kiley is a fitness trainer and aerobic instructor in New York City. She has had type 1 diabetes since she was nine years old and she is feeling better than ever now at 37. Kiley and fellow fitness expert trainer, Crystal Stein, are in the photo demos.