Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder. Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.
Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.
Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.
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Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch?
Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Well, “Day-um” as my other southern friends would say! And “DOMS.” Which is not a way of cussing with a northern accent. It stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. We talked about it in “How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness after Walking Hills,” (or as we are tempted to entitle it: “My Calves Have a Stiffy.” Can you tell we’re happy to talk about sore muscles and preventing exercise discomfort.)
Essentially, elevating your core temperature (and thereby henceforthwith and so forthy warming up the muscles) within 24 hours of the original cardio activity will help prevent muscle soreness later on. You don’t have to repeat the 10 mile run, but a walk of just ten minutes should do the trick. It could be the running is making you sore, and that you simply aren’t feeling it until one or two days later. Then walking gets all the blame. Instead blame DOMS.
Kymberly: Running is powered primarily by calves and quads. Walking is powered by glutes and shins (and therefore a great cross training or complementary cardio activity). So if you are used to running and added the walking recently, then your body may simply have been adapting to using your muscles in a new or different way. I am not sure if the pace has anything to do with the soreness unless the slow pace dictated or created an unusual gait that did not work for you biomechanically.Walking & Running Are Opposites, powered by complementary muscle pairs: quads and calves vs glutes and shins. Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Door #3 – If it’s not delayed muscle soreness, could your pain be caused from overuse? Is it standard for you to do 31 miles in a 4-day span? Somewhere in here I’ll throw out the concept of post-run stretching…oh, there, I just did! Could be you also need more recovery time between runs and walks.
With your entire lower body in pain, have you considered the pain might be due to shin splints or your Q-angle? (get solutions from our post, Prevent Shin Splints: Three Calf Stretches). If you have fairly wide hips and/or a narrow stance, then your knees might be the ones yelling “ouchy.”
Kymberly: When you feel better, run or walk over to our group fitness classes so you can let us know whether your pain and soreness are in your joints or muscles. If muscles, I’d say pull a Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t worry; Be happy.” Simply do 10 minutes of light cardio within 24 hours of a new, intensified, or added activity to give your muscles a chance to reheat and release. But if the pain is in your joints, then worry. … and change your gait or stride, as now we may be talking something biomechanical. In this case get a certified trainer or health professional to assess you. Do not light up those joints!
Photo credit: Photobucket
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Hard to make that sound sexy and exciting. However, having a strong circulatory system and being flexible should be on the top of your “gotta have” list if you want to live a full, healthy life. If you are a woman over 45 (keep those genetic predispositions in mind too) you will especially need to focus on circulating better than a politician at a fundraiser!Sure, you have a heart. But is it strong, flexible, and a good circulator? Click To Tweet
Circulation is the movement of fluid through the vessels of the body in a regular or circuitous course induced by the pumping action of the heart. Say what? When you have good circulation, blood can move to every cell in your body in less than 60 seconds. (And you can learn foods to eat to help your heart in fewer than 60 more seconds by checking out our post, “5 Age Defying Tips to ‘Youthen’ Your Heart and Improve Circulation.”)How can you improve your circulation? Click To Tweet
Thinking of which, did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US? Or that the symptoms of a woman’s heart attack can differ drastically from men’s, so those signs often go unrecognized? We need to do better at spotting heart attacks in women AND take action to minimize heart disease in the first place. In other words, having good circulation not only can improve your life, but possibly also save it!
Notice how Bob Hoskins ends up at the ER in the Bonnie Raitt video clip? Did you notice what he was eating? Exactly!
The three main ways you can help your circulatory system are to:
2) Achieve good flexibility
Researchers have established a correlation between flexible bodies and flexible arteries in people older than 40. Can you touch your toes? If so, you probably have flexible arteries. Arterial stiffness indicates an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Being fit seems to delay the development of age-associated artery stiffening.
3) Intake healthy food and drink
One of our favorite ways people can support their circulation is via cocoa flavanols. What can be better than finding out that a regular, small dose of dark chocolate helps your health. We’re all over that good news!
In other, more expected news, you probably guessed that a diet rich in plant-based foods is also heart healthy. This infographic has some specific foods to choose if you want a stronger heart and better circulation. (We differ on just two small points: 1) tomato has no “e” at the end and 2) egg yolks are no longer considered problematic.)
ACTION: Improve your heart when you subscribe (and then read and follow our tips). Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Time to stretch your mind and your workout, Ms Comfy. Ignoring your question for a moment (I am good at ignoring non-compliments too), let’s chit chat about an exercise routine that is, well, too routine and comfortable. Once your body has adapted to a certain level (let’s call it the “buff, babe-a-licious” level), it needs CHANGE to keep adapting upwards. No, not THE Change. We don’t require age checks here. While you really do need to get some stretching into your program, even more you need to vary your program. Take a look at our post, How Often Should I Vary My Workout? for more on this professional free nagging. Priorities, priorities.When Do I Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One? Click To Tweet
Alexandra: You want to add stretching? Okay, cardio + weight training = need to stretch for range of motion (ROM!) To translate, if you do any cardio or weight training you should stretch (mostly at the end, but during is sometimes okay) in order to maintain or increase range of motion, also known as flexibility. In short, don’t do your stretching prior to your workout as your muscles are short then. That’s my short answer! I gave all the researchers permission to let you know that stretching prior to exercise does not prevent injury or muscle soreness.Increase your range of motion by stretching AFTER your workout. Click To Tweet
Kymberly: The ideal time to stretch is when your muscles are their warmest and cuddliest. Hmmm, that sounds immediately post-cardio to me. But since Alexandra brings up the “short muscle” comment, let’s think about that for a sec. Time’s up. After strength training, your muscles are short again. That’s why it’s called “muscular contraction.” And you do want to re-extend whatever you just shortened, stretching either between your lunges and each upper body exercise or at the end of your session. In general, stretch when warm; not when cold. Oy vay, such good advice! Basically, you have choices — post-cardio, between strength exercises, post all resistance training, and before abs.
More good advice to make the most of your workout time and maintain as much flexibility as possible is to read our post Stretch Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?Stretch when you're warm, not cold. You can stretch post-cardio, btwn strength exercises, post all resistance training, before abs Click To Tweet
Alexandra: It would seem you don’t need an excuse to lie down and not do your ab work, but I’ll give you one anyway. With all that time you’re saving avoiding the ab work, use it to hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds. You say “couch po-tay-toe,” I say “couch po-tah-toe.” You say “hold” or “contract-relax” stretching, I say “static” or “PNF.” Whatever! These two types are probably the best choices for you. You say “Or-i-guhn,” some other fools (not I) say “Or-i-gahn.” And let’s not even start on the pronunciation of “Willamette!” Even Martin Sheen got it wrong on “West Wing” (hint: Memorize this-“It’s Willamette, dammit”). And do your abs, Willamette!
Dear flexible readers: Do you take time to do your stretches? Have you done your ab exercises yet?
Photo credits: Creative Commons: kevindooley, quinn.anya, Avoir Chaud
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
It was a dark and gluten-free night… and sis and I were deciding whether to attend all four days of the annual IDEA World Fitness Convention. Then (thunder sound inserted here), what should happen but a knock at the email!!! Our buddies from Attune Foods invited us to help out at their booth, sharing the goodness that is their cereal.
Saying yes to being at the booth meant we got to talk about (and eat) their Uncle Sam Original and their newest cereal, Uncle Sam Rye & Hemp, which meant we know for a fact that these two have only four ingredients, and sugar isn’t one of them, which plays nicely to my love of healthy foods that make my body healthy, leading to increased brain power that allows me to channel my inner Faulkner and have fun writing one very long sentence!
In other words, it was the start of a weekend with a focus on the relationship between our minds, bodies, and good nutrition. As anyone who has tried to lose weight can tell you, the mind controls the body. When it comes to food, our bodies are a result of what our mind thinks, believes, assumes and creates. Luckily, our minds are malleable! Ponder and assimilate, grasshoppers, ponder and assimilate. In shorthand – P&A.
* If we want to attract healthy relationships, we must be healthy
* Our relationship to food and how we eat reflects how we live, so eat mindfully
* Every thought we have becomes our physical self
* Our thoughts release chemicals into our bodies. When we change our thoughts, we change our physiology
* When you are stressed, put away the utensils and eat with your hands; preferably outdoors
* If you are feeling depressed, eat raw cashews first thing in the morning
* Chronic disease isn’t because we are old; it’s simply the late onset of all the stuff we’ve done to our bodies up to that point
* How old would you be if you didn’t know your chronological age? That is how old your body thinks you are
* The people who live longest are those who are most flexible and adaptable. This includes eating for health, not chemical pleasure. Adapt your diet to increase your longevity
* Organic food is better for your health than cleanses, as your digestive system already renews itself every 3-4 days
* Physically you have a new body every 7-10 years, so it’s not too late to change your eating habits
* Your chronological age does two things – gets you beer and discounts. It’s your biological and psychological age you should focus on
* To improve your digestive system, eat 2 tablespoons of raw, unfermented sauerkraut every day
* Gluten and casein are the two most common causes of inflammation
* You will be healthier eating junk food with someone you like than eating healthy food with someone you don’t
* Medications can help, yet be aware that they silence the symptoms. Meditation can help silence the thoughts that led to the symptoms
* Use food to harmonize, not demonize, your mind, body, and soul
All the above tips come from Teri Mosey, who has the most unique combination of degrees – a
Bachelor’s in Biochemistry, Master’s in Exercise Physiology, and PhD in Holistic Nutrition.
* Keep a food diary
* Be aware of hunger
* Step self-sabotaging thoughts
* Build resilience
* Be aware of how you eat when alone vs with others
* Read the label before eating
* Take time to enjoy your food
* Turn off distractions
* Consciously tense up your muscles, then relax them when you’re about to make a poor food choice
* Look at pictures of happy events when tempted to stress eat
* Don’t make it personal. You are not good or bad according to what you eat; you are undergoing a process of change
Did you know that the ONLY food directly related to pediatric obesity is sweetened beverages! Back away from the soda (and check those energy and replenish drinks too).
These tips are from Michelle Murphy Zive, MS, RD, and Principal Investigator: Network for a Healthy California.
I came away from the convention with a renewed respect for my body, especially after tear duct surgery on both eyes. I’d say I had a determined look in my eye, but that was actually the swelling. My eyes might not have been working, but my taste buds were, and I came away from the convention with a few boxes of Attune cereal. Scooooore!
Back-To-School Rebook Sale
Until this Sunday August 18, Reebok.com is kicking off the Reebok Friends & Family Sale! The Friends & Family Sale is one of Reebok’s biggest sales of the year, so make sure to take advantage of this great offer and get 30% off your entire order by using the code FF30 through Sunday if you’re in the market for fitness apparel or shoes.
Reebok has also marked down some of the hottest apparel and footwear in their Sale Section including Classic leather and Zigs in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes! Men’s, women’s and kid’s hoodies, jackets, shorts, sports bras, and t-shirts are on sale too! We thought the sale was a good deal so we’re sharing it!
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Grab a fruit smoothie and head on over to our YouTube channel to view short videos that will improve your fitness! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on Google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Actually the back saver test is a modification of the sit and reach test. Both are flexibility assessments, though the former tests one leg at a time; the latter has both legs extended simultaneously. For the back saver, you sit on the floor with one leg extended in front of you and the other bent with that foot planted throughout. Then you reach both hands toward your feet and mark how far you go. How low low low can you go? How low can you go?
So, what muscles get stretched in this test designed to test flexibility? For $100 per vowel and $200 per consonant, let’s go with H-a-m-s-t-r-i-n-g-s. We have a winnah! Hamstring flexibility helps with gait, posture and hip placement; such flexibility helps protect your back. So that’s the “saver” part of the story.
Take a look at this short video we did for eHow demonstrating how to get the most out of the sit and reach test. Don’t we look deluxe when professional videographers shoot us with two cameras?
How flexible are your hammies? Are you doing the test correctly or imitating Quasimodo and hunching over? As our video shows, you want to lift long through the spine and press your tailbone back, not under. Lengthen your arms toward your toes without “turtling” (having your neck disappear into your shoulders). If you do this incorrectly and slump or roll in an effort to get closer to your toes–as most people do– then you’re not really involving the hamstrings any more. You’re simply stretching your upper back, which is already pretty stretched out on most people. So do stay long and lifted through your torso. If you have good form, then raise your hands to wave as if you’ve been back saved!
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Yoga can transform you into a more confident woman who’s not afraid to meet life’s challenges. Not only will you become stronger, more flexible, and more agile, but yoga will also affect your mind as you cultivate patience. Yoga can help prepare you to face life’s changes with love, respect, and belief in yourself, and will strengthen you in all the choices you make.
Through yoga, you will learn to listen more to yourself, and trust your self-assessments. As you set the boundaries that work for this phase of life, you will hone your ability to take one day at a time and stay at the present moment. Not tomorrow or yesterday, but now.
Yoga takes your values and thoughts and turns them upside down. If you’ve harbored negative thoughts about yourself, you’ll find yourself becoming a more positive person who values the experiences life has to offer.
In the past, women approaching their 50’s lowered their expectations of what their bodies could do. Perhaps due to cultural pressures and perceptions, women’s self-esteem at this age could suffer. Stress adds tension, especially at the shoulders and neck, which can affect breathing. Once women learn to breathe deeply, their shoulders relax and you can see them start to settle into their own bodies as they learn how to use their entire lungs when they breathe.
No matter what age we are, we have to believe that we are good enough just the way we are. It has to be repeated over and over so that it manifests itself in the mind, because it is the truth. We have to accept and love ourselves for who we are. We don’t need to be perfect – we just have to like who we are. But we sometimes need a little bit of help, because the pressure from the external world is powerful. Yoga can be that friend that provides help.
Yoga is a powerful practice that encourages wellbeing on so many levels. It enables us to age with grace and beauty, and makes the aging process more pleasurable and meaningful.
If you are new to yoga and don’t know where to begin, the following video is for you. It is a sequence of 8 yoga postures specifically for beginners.
More cool info about Lexi: She instructs Yoga videos on her YouTube channel and actively works on her website LexiYoga.com. Her life mainly consists of – Eat, Sleep & Yoga. Follow her to learn more about the healing power and benefits of yoga.
Photo Credits: Lexi Yoga
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
The foot bone connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bone connected to the shin bone, The shin bone connected to the knee bone, The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, The thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone, The back bone connected to the shoulder bone, The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, The neck bone connected to the head bone, Them bones got up and walked around. – Lyrics from the song Dry Bones by the Delta Rhythm Boys
If you want your bones and muscles to get up and walk around, you have to keep them happy. Our singing does not necessarily make our bones happy! But stretching, well, that’s a solution of a different horse!
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Sad and sorry news — tight, short hip flexors don’t indicate strong hip flexors. Happy news — You can get the whys and ways to strengthen your hip flexor muscles when you click this link.If you sit a lot, you probably have short, contracted hip flexor muscles that need stretching. But how? Click To Tweet
Basically, any time you lift the knee, such as in a kickbox cardio class, a squat, a step class, a walk up a hill, an incline on cardio equipment — you are contracting hip flexors. Whenever you extend your leg to the front you are contracting the quads. Time to stretch those babies, but not by committing the most common form faults (which can really stress the knee, by the way). Watch our video to get incredible, amazing, unsurpassed, exemplary form. Find out whether you are guilty of any of the most common wrong ways.
Photo credit: archive.org Public Domain
Alexandra: Hmm, this is Alexandra, and I’m not sure what happens at :22 in the video, but I would like to thank Zensah for the orange compression sleeves. They rule!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:
All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:
Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!
Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.
Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)
Alexandra: I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.
My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:
This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.
As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.
Usually I’m a bit
snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!
Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?
FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.
Photo credit: Man jumping kreg.steppe