Sunday, January 23, 2011

10-Minute Stretch Routine

When it comes to stretching our muscles, we are all very good at throwing a leg on a bench or step and calling it good. But that alone only targets your hamstrings, and you definitely use more than just your hamstrings when you work out. Even if it's just a leg day. Or even if you've spent your day running errands instead of, well...running. We use each and every muscle when we're physically active, so it's especially important to hit every muscle when you stretch. And you should stretch. Daily, in fact.

The following 10-minute stretch routine will take you through a series of poses that will ultimately stretch most of the major muscle groups in your body. Move fluidly as if you were in a Yoga class, holding every pose for 20 seconds. Don't bounce, breathe easy, let yourself relax. You'll love it, I promise.

Start on your back, legs straight and arms at your side. Bend your left leg, then bring your right leg up and toward the ceiling. Stop when you can no longer keep it straight, then pull on it ever so gently with your hands to intensify the hamstring stretch. HOLD. (Note: This leg series can also be done with an exercise band or towel, which would be hooked around your foot.) Let your right leg open to the side, but try to keep your left hip on the ground. HOLD it here for an inner thigh stretch, then bring your right leg up, ultimately taking it across your body and down to the left. Try to keep your right hip as close to the ground as possible, then HOLD the pose to stretch out your outer thigh. Return to start, then repeat with the left leg.

Roll onto your stomach, place your hands underneath your shoulders and gently press up to stretch out your abdominal muscles. HOLD it here, relax back down, then push yourself onto your hands and knees. Press your shoulders up toward the ceiling like a cat. HOLD it here, then drop your hips to your heels, stretching your arms out in front of you and HOLD.

Roll back onto your feet, then stand up slowly by stacking one vertebrae at a time. Lock your hands behind your back, then lift your arms up as you press your chest out. HOLD. As you release your hands, step back with your right foot, pressing your heel into the ground as you pull your right arm across your chest. HOLD for both a calf and shoulder stretch. Step forward as you take your arm up and over your head to stretch out your right triceps. HOLD, then reach over your head as you step out to the right for an oblique stretch. HOLD, then relax and repeat the sequence on your left side.

Next, find a wall and position yourself so that your left hip faces it. Hold onto the wall with your left hand, then cross your right foot over your left knee, creating the number 4 with your legs. Have a seat, then HOLD to stretch out your right glute. Relax, then move your left arm behind you, positioning your thumb against the wall, palm facing the ground. Twist away and HOLD for a biceps stretch. Relax, then repeat on your other side.

Move away from the wall and place your fingertips behind your head, standing tall while gently pushing your chin to your chest. HOLD. Relax, and enjoy your elongated self.

Namaste. Or whatever they say.

Question: What is your favorite stretch?

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