Do you get out of bed each morning feeling like an 80 year old?
Do you feel you need to stretch out your back after getting up from your desk at the end of the day?
Do you constantly feel stiff no matter how much stretching you do?
If you’re like me, nothing feels better than a good old stretch when you get out of bed in the morning. You don’t have to carry that stiff feeling around all day though. How would your life be if you were able to get up and get moving quicker and NOT feel stiff for the rest of the day?
I want to share with you 3 stretches (I call them exercises) you can do every day that have been massive in helping my clients recently. They could help you to do a lot of your daily tasks and favourite sports/activities with greater ease.
How to get your upper back moving better
Why you should do this – Most of us now spend long periods sitting behind a computer, driving, looking after small children or even just working with mobile devices. As a result of this, you lose a lot of mobility in your upper back meaning that lifting things above your head become a challenge and doing exercises like press ups become harder as you struggle to get anywhere near the floor.
How to do it – Stand pressed against a wall with arms above the head and slowly reach back with your arms, lifting the chest and looking up towards the ceiling, keeping your waist and toes touching the wall. Do 10-15 repetitions at least twice a day.
What are the benefits? The exercise will probably feel really nice and you’ll realise how stiff your back is! You’ll start to get more flexibility in the upper back and potentially reduce the amount of tension felt in the lower back.
Weak glutes no more!
Why you should do this – This exercise works well with the one above as this creates the same movement at the hips as the other one does to the upper back. Both problems are caused by long periods spent in a ‘flexed’ position (sitting, bent forwards, driving). It’s common if you feel your hamstrings are constantly tight or that your glutes are weak or not firing. This applies to many runners. The problem is NOT in the glutes or the hamstrings so strength exercises and common stretches are unlikely to make much of a difference. Instead, it’s the hip flexors (top of thighs), and potentially the quadriceps, that have shortened as a result.
How to do it – Step forwards and think of pulling the tailbone through so you feel a stretch at the top of the thigh. Try to see the chest lifted and look straight ahead as you do it. Do 10-15 repetitions at least twice a day.
What are the benefits? Again, you’ll feel a really nice stretch at the top of the thigh and coupled with the one above, you will start to notice your posture improving and also that your core muscles are getting a pretty good workout!
All the exercises are contained in this video
How to get rid of tight calfs
Why you should do this – Many people complain of feeling like their calfs are very tight from walking a lot or when building up their running training. Indeed, ask a selection of runners and I suspect a lot will complain of having tight calfs. The natural response is to do the typical calf stretch of standing with your hands against a wall with one foot back, pointing the foot forwards. What if the calfs aren’t actually tight and don’t need stretched? With any kind of niggle or injury, you have to look at WHY it’s happening as much as WHAT‘s happening.
What I’ve come to learn from working with clients with this issue is how their feet are positioned during the day. The majority sit with their legs stretched out in front of them, with toes pointing forwards, or feet are crossed underneath them with the tips of the toes touching the floor. I haven’t met many people who sit with their feet flat on the floor. While this isn’t an issue in itself, you lose the movement in the ankle joint from moving forwards when you walk and run and so the calfs start to protest.
How to do it – place one foot in front of you and rock back and forwards, driving the knee forwards on the front leg whilst keeping the foot flat on the floor and reach out in front of you. Stairs are good for this so stand with one foot on the bottom stair and reach out to the 3rd or 4th stair as you drive the knee forwards. Do 15 repetitions on each side then repeat the exercise by stepping onto the stair and repeating the same movement. Try doing this as often as you can each day.
What are the benefits? You’ve probably never been aware of how restricted the movement you have at your ankles until you do this exercise but go with the range of movement you have and you should start to feel a difference each time you do the exercise. You should start to feel like you can get more done before you feel your calfs tighten up and things like walking up/down stairs becoming somewhat easier and having more freedom when you run.
The first exercise helped one client, Lucy, improve her range in doing press ups this morning after doing just 10-15 repetitions. Another client, Alison, told me that her lower back has felt less stiff since doing it. I’ve had a few running clients feel much “looser” when they run after doing the first and second exercises and Steve, one of my Running Coaching clients, who struggled to run 5k without his calfs tighten up was able to start running pain-free after doing the third exercise several times a day, every day for a whole week and no longer has a calf problem.
These are just 3 exercises that have helped my clients and could potentially help you, especially if you feel that your core is weak and your posture is poor. I have many more exercises that have helped clients move away from pain. The difference between these exercises and typical static stretches is that they target the joints, get them moving better so that the muscles get back to working through their full range. Static stretches only target the muscles, which will feel nice for a very short period until you go to do move them again.
Do you have tight muscles or back pain that doesn’t seem to be responding to your stretching routine? Ask me about my new Kickstart program. It consists of 12 x 30 minute Personal Training sessions designed to help you overcome these kind of issues and get you back onto the road to full fitness again.
The program starts on Monday 22nd July, will cost £250 and there will only be 8 spaces available. If you would like more information, contact me here and you will get the information before it goes live on the website on Wednesday 26th June.