So I met this amazing lady at a health and fitness expo recently. Her son had a booth near mine, and she was hanging out and adding an unbelievable energy and vibe to the area. Her grandkids convinced her to come learn to juggle, so I taught her and she of course rocked it. I would guess she was about 80 years young. I asked her how she stayed in such great shape and kept up her energy levels, and she had a very simple answer: “I stretch every morning.”
Now I know that sounds way too easy, but it’s actually not. Finding time to stretch every morning can be challenging. But it’s so worth it! Here’s a quick test that will show you why (if you don’t stretch often):
- Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
- You know what comes next – slowly edge your arms forward to touch your toes.
Does this seem tough? Well just imagine how much tougher it will be if you don’t do this again for 5, 10, or 15 more years! Ouch! Yes, our flexibility will decrease – we’ll lose it if we don’t use it.
Begin with just 5 minutes in the morning and work up to 10 or 15. Give your lower body priority – it takes a pounding with constant walking (and sitting!). Here are a few moves to get you started:
- That awesome lady I mentioned emphasized this one: Lay on your back and pull your right knee up towards your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
- Sit with legs slightly out to the sides in a V and in full contact with the floor. Keeping your back straight (don’t hunch your shoulders over), place your hands on the floor in front of you and edge them forward until you feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs and hamstrings. Hold for 20 seconds. Aaaah!
- Sit on floor with your legs together and straight out in front of you (just like in our test above). Engage your abs to help you sit up straight. Point your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then bring toes back up and flex your feet – hold for five seconds (or more – you can tell this is doing a lot of good!). Keep alternating pointing and flexing for a minute or so.
- Place your hands behind your back and hold them together. Keep your shoulders back and not hunched forward. Tilt your head back as your slowly raise your arms just a a bit to open up and stretch your chest muscles. It’s not about how high you raise your arms – as long as you feel a light stretch in your chest, you’re doing great!
- While standing or sitting upright, grab onto an imaginary ‘rope’ above you. Place one hand on top of the other as your ‘climb’ the rope, feeling a nice stretch in your triceps and upper back. Use your abs to keep your trunk steady as you climb.
- While sitting upright, hold your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Round your shoulders as you suck in your abs and push your hands out in front of you (clasp them together if you like), stretching your upper back muscles. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat.
Keep in mind your morning stretches should be gentle and only slightly past the point of feeling the stretch – keep it safe. More intense stretching should be reserved for after a warmup or post-workout. The point here is to get your blood moving and lubricate your joints before you start your day.
There are so many awesome stretches you can do, so pick and choose you favorites and switch it up occasionally. And remember the words of the lady in her 80s bouncing around with the most energy in the room:
“I stretch every morning.”