A Few Simple Stretches Prepare Your Body and Mind to Face the Day

There was a time when I could do the splits, ski a black diamond slope, tap dance to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and march while playing a trumpet in a football half-time show.  Those days are long gone.  If I did any of those things today, I’d probably wind up in the emergency room.

These days, my knees lock.  My back aches.  I can barely touch my knees, much less my toes.  I get winded walking to the beat of Barry Manilow.  Some of my ailments are the result of injuries and illnesses.  Others are just the toll of age.

stretchWhile I can’t do all those things I did in my teens and twenties, I will not give up on a healthy and active lifestyle.  I have five kids to chase after, you know.  One of the tricks I use to get me going in the mornings is stretching.  A fifteen minute stretching routine works out the kinks and helps me wake up.  I often use a similar routine before bedtime to help wind down.

In fact, where I previously took an anti-inflammatory medicine several times a week, I might only take one or two a month now.  I know stretching and walking has helped the most with this reduction.

This is my routine, but you can use and adapt for your own needs.  Breathe deeply with each stretch and go slowly to optimize the stretch.  Keep your stomach pulled in to stabilize your back.

Lying on my back:

  1. Raise each arm over head five times.
  2. Raise each leg from the floor five times with foot flexed.
  3. Circle each leg five times in each direction.  This can be done at any angle that is comfortable.
  4. Using a towel looped over the sole of the foot, pull straightened leg in as far as comfortable.  You want a good stretch but not too much pull.  Do each leg.
  5. Still using the towel, stretch each leg to the side.
  6. Pull knees into chest and rotate legs out and in to stretch hips.
  7. Sit ups.  As many as you can in the most challenging position you can.  By strengthening the core abdomen muscles, lower back aches can almost disappear.

Sitting up:

  1. With legs stretched out in a V-position, hold arms out and twist each way ten times.
  2. Reach toward each foot and toward the middle, stretching as far as you can but not pulling to the point of discomfort.
  3. With legs pulled in and soles of the feet touching, sit up straight and roll head from side to side five times.
  4. Lift shoulders to ears and release five times.
  5. With legs bent to one side, stretch arms over to the same side as the legs.  Repeat to the other side.

Standing up:

  1. Circle each arm five times, as if you’re winding up to pitch a ball.
  2. Raise arms over head, breathing in as you go up.  Grasp your hands together and slightly bend back to stretch your shoulders and neck.  Look up at the ceiling.  Hold for a few seconds and release.  Repeat five times
  3. With legs spread about shoulder width, hold arms out and twist each way ten times.
  4. Lift shoulders to ears and release five times.
  5. Roll head from side to side five times.
  6. Stretch arms over head breathing as deeply as you can two to three times.

You’re done!  If you can do more, that’s great.  If you need to do less, that’s fine.  If you have joint problems, talk to a physical therapist to get a list of exercises that can help your specific needs.  The important thing is to start stretching at the level you’re at.  The stretches wake up your muscles and get the blood flowing to tight places.  The deep breathing oxygenates your blood, muscles and brain.

Simple daily stretches reduces my need for pain medication and allows me to lead a more active lifestyle.  It brightens my mood and de-stresses my mind.  It’s way cheaper than therapy or medication.  I can do it in my living room.  I’ll never be Gumby or compete in a triathlon, but I’ll enjoy a better quality of life as I approach my golden years.  Sounds pretty good to me.

A new exercise site I found recently, Tone and Tighten, has a great workout index if you want to add more challenge to your routine.  I’ve added the Bridge, the Bird-Dog, and the Plank from their 10 Best Core Exercises.  They have many more easy-to-follow exercise lists for home workouts, gym workouts, short-on-time workouts, and targeted muscle groups.  Great site.

What is your wakeup routine?



Image courtesy of  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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