Gravity’s Last Stand
Five Gravity-Defying Stretches to Keep You Flexible, Active and Young
First the bad news. If you spend enough time on planet Earth, gravity will pull you down. By the time many of us reach middle age, gravity is exacting a big toll on our connective tissues. Over the years, our shoulders round, hips bend, and heads slump forward. Consequently, our backs ache, and joints get so stiff we lurch along like walking mummies—especially in the morning. Our sedentary office jobs make things worse. We spend the bulk of our days sitting hunched over keyboards, craning our necks toward monitors. The sad truth is that if you spend enough time sitting in a chair—your body becomes a chair. But it doesn't have to be that way.
By adding five simple stretches to your regular routine, you can greatly improve your posture and push back against the ravages of gravity. Couple these with strength-training exercises, and you'll regain flexibility and postural balance to help you better perform a wide range of activities, from tennis and cycling to dancing and hiking. Even tasks less demanding tasks like gardening and vacuuming can become easier. Because stretching increases blood and oxygen flow to tissues, you'll have fewer aches and pains, feel more relaxed, and enjoy a heightened sense of well-being.
Get Warm. Get Loose. Get Going.
Ever try working with a lump of cold clay? It's stiff and unmalleable. But knead it for a while and it becomes soft and pliable. You can mold it into any shape. The human body is very similar. Our joints are stitched together with a thick, glue-like substance called collagen. This powerful protein is the main ingredient in all the body's connective tissue. With a lack of activity, collagen becomes stiff and less flexible. That's why it's important to warm it up before starting to stretch. So always begin your routine with a short stint of cardio exercise, just enough to build a light sweat—usually about five to 10 minutes.
Long, Slow and Steady
The Welcyon stretch routine is designed to improve your posture, decrease pain and discomfort, and improve your ability to perform a wide range of activities. Remember, stretches are most effective when your body is relaxed, so avoid bouncing, vacillating or abrupt movements. Instead, apply steady, gentle pressure for the duration of the stretch—about 60 seconds. This produces optimal improvements for your range of motion. After a minute, ease out of the stretch and relax before moving on to the next one. Lastly, be patient with yourself. If you practice stretching after every aerobic or strength workout, your flexibility and range of motion will slowly increase over time.
A Word on Safety
Breathe slowly and deeply while you stretch. This keeps you relaxed and helps prevent strain on your joints.You should never feel pain or significant discomfort during any stretch. In fact, you should stop stretching immediately if you feel sharp pain or the onset of significant tingling, numbness or dizziness.
Let's Get Started!
Ready to limber up? Great! I've put together an easy-to-use chart showing the five essential stretches that we teach Welcyon members. These exercises will work five critical areas of your anatomy:
2. Shoulder and chest
5. Heel cord
The chart outlines the benefits of each stretch, and shows you how to do it. It's a good reference to use when you're away from the club, but for best results, be sure to work one-on-one with a coach at Welcyon. They have the knowledge and training to show you the safest and most effective way to get the most from your stretching.
If you haven't stretched in a while and need a refresher, your coach will gladly take you through a review. Just make an appointment at the front desk next time you stop in the club.
Performing these stretches only adds a few minutes to your exercise routine, but pays off with big benefits. If you practice them regularly, you can improve your posture, range of motion, and ability to stay active and healthy for years to come. That's a bargain at twice the price, and all it costs you is a little sweat and time.