Sneak In Stretching
Daily stretching improves how you feel and how you move, but finding the time to fit it into your day can be a challenge. Here’s how to work simple stretches into your life without interrupting your day’s flow.
Stretch During Your Shower Routine
The perfect time of day to sneak in a little stretching is right after—or during—a warm shower in the morning. “Your muscles are warm and it is a great way to energize your day,” says Jenny Hadfield, a Chicago-based fitness coach and author of Marathoning for Mortals. Hadfield suggests the following shower and just-after-the-shower stretching routine:
- While in the shower, raise your arms above your head, clasp your hands, and reach upward to stretch your shoulders and back.
- With the water spray hitting the back of your neck, slowly turn your head to the right until your chin is over your shoulder. Pause, then slowly turn your head all the way to the left. Repeat five times in each direction.
- Dry off with one foot on the toilet, lean forward, and stretch your hamstring.
- While drying your hair, hold a calf stretch by extending one leg 2-3 feet behind the other.
Stretch with Each Bite of Breakfast
Do this sitting down. As you eat, roll your ankles in clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Then draw large, imaginary letters with your big toes, spelling your first, middle, and last name with each foot.
Stretch Your Legs As You Wait In Line
Stuck standing on line at the bank or grocery store? Stand on your toes, as high as you can, for as long as you can. Then, with feet back on the ground, lift the toes on your right foot as high as they can go without lifting your heel, and hold for 20 seconds. Then do your left foot. These simple moves are also good for boring parties, lengthy museum visits, and any other time you are on your feet for a long time.
Release Your Neck Whenever You’re On Hold
Get a speakerphone or a headset. The next time someone puts you on hold, do some neck rolls or get down on the floor and start doing your stretching routine.
Stretch Every Time You Get Out of the Car
Even just short periods of driving can do a number on your back if you don’t periodically stretch it out. When you get out of the car, gently reach to the sky as far as you can without lifting your heels. Hold the position for 20 seconds, gently pushing higher as your body adjusts to the stretch. Then bend forward and place your hands on your knees. Exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin. Then flatten your back, inhaling as you go. Hold each position for a count of two, repeating in both directions 10 times.
Rest Your Legs Up a Wall Before Bed
Sit with one hip as close to the wall as you can get it. Then lie on your back and extend your legs up the wall, so your buttocks, backs of your thighs, and heels touch the wall. You’ll feel a mild stretch in your legs as gravity encourages fluids to drain out of your legs and back up to your heart. Hold this position for five minutes.
That is, grab a pull-up bar and just hang from it—no pulling or swinging—for a minute or two. It is surprisingly refreshing and can do considerable good for your spine, as well as your arm, shoulder, and chest muscles. A great place to do this is on the monkey bars at a children’s playground. However, if you haven’t exercised for a while, ask your doctor first about this one, since you are asking your hands and shoulders to hold your entire body weight.
Stretch Your Digits
Do finger stretches regularly to keep your hands limber and strong. Do one hand at a time for best effect.
- Finger Stretch: Place a hand on a tabletop or thigh, with palm facing down. Spread your fingers as far as you can and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Thumb Touch: Place your hand, palm up, on a table with your fingers open and relaxed. Smoothly touch the tips of your thumb and index finger. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position. In a similar manner, touch the tip of your thumb to each of your other fingertips.
- Spider Walk: Place your hand palm-down on a tabletop. Using your fingers, pull your palm across the table as far as you can reach.