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Published on December 25, 2018

Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Having a flexible body is essential for everyday life, and particularly for exercise. Think of all the things you do throughout your day that cause your muscles to tighten or create discomfort: Being stuck behind a desk, standing for long periods of time, repetitive motions, driving long distances, and exercising without properly maintaining a limber body are all ways that keep you from having a well-balanced and efficient lifestyle.

To fully optimize your workout, it is necessary to be flexible in order to perform your exercises properly — by getting full range of motion in which your joints can potentially move. Here’s why:[1]

When we don’t stretch before and after a workout, our muscles hold onto toxins, we risk injury, recovery time takes longer, and our performance is decreased.

In order to prevent restrictive mobility, we must do flexibility stretches.[2] Common areas that need stretching and/or flexibility are the hips, back, knees, and ankles. In this article, you will see why it is not only important to stretch, but to balance the planes of motion in which our body parts move.

How To Stretch

Done consistently, the following flexibility stretches will enhance your workout, you will gain greater range of motion, improve balance, and recover more quickly for your next workout.

Typically, a static stretch should be held for 20-60 seconds (International Sports Sciences Association), remembering not to overstretch which can cause injury as overstretching can cause pulled muscles and tears.

In a comfortable stretch, you should feel just a slight pull without going beyond normal range of motion. Always be aware of your breathing during a stretch.

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For example, if you are doing a flexibility movement for the knee, just before you go into the stretch, take a deep breath and then exhale once you are into the stretch. Breathing is important as it relaxes the muscles and helps to loosen them.

Your body should be warm before stretching to increase blood flow. This can be a 3-minute ride on a stationary bike or slowly-controlled, 45-60 second body weight squats.

Hips Stretches

The hips tend to give us trouble when we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and the cause of pain is not always injury or over-use, but rather, lack of stretching in the hip flexor muscles.

Even if you’re not a sedentary person, you walk throughout your work day, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time, you must keep your hips flexible to keep them from tightening which can cause other problems, like lower back pain. (Everything is connected.)

Oftentimes, people who are active tend to think that because they cycle, run, or perform other exercises that recruit the hip flexors, they don’t need to stretch because their hips are constantly moving; Not so. What people don’t recognize is that over time these and other movements create muscle imbalances, spasms, and affect posture.

When your hips are flexible, the exercises that recruit gluteal muscles, like the squat and lunge, have better control. Take a look at these 4 hip flexor stretches by Guerilla Zen Fitness:

Back/Spine Stretches

The back and abdominal muscles support the core and are necessary to have a strong gait. In order to have a strong back, you must open up your chest and sides of your back with various stretches.

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Sometimes, without noticing it, we rely on our back for a variety of movements, such as looking over our shoulder to pass safely in our vehicle, rising up from a chair, reaching up high for an object, etc.

These passive movements seem easy, but without a stable core, you’re left with a weak spine and the movements can become challenging over time.

Having a flexible spine and strong core is great for exercises like crunches, torso circles, side bends, lying leg raises, and sit-ups.

Here are 3 spinal flexibility stretches by Strength Side:

You can also incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily routine as a holistic approach to gaining flexibility in your back.

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it moves energy throughout the entire body, with special attention to the spine. In addition, yoga helps to lengthen muscles and opens up the space between the ribs and vertebrae, which minimizes tension and reduces headaches and backaches.[3]

Try these yoga poses that are not only good for flexibility but for overall relaxation. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths:[4]

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    Knees Stretches

    The use of our legs to walk, run, swim or do any the movement that involves the legs also involves the knees. Flexibility in and around the knee joints is essential for mobility, and because everything is connected, flexibility in the knees will also create flexibility in other areas, such as the ankles, which will I will address next.

    So, if the exercises you perform on machines, such as the leg extension or leg curl, which move in the sagittal plane – that is, forward and backward or up and down – are among your go-to’s when training your lower body, you must have flexible knees.

    Here are 3 knee strengthening examples by Strength Side:

    Ankles Exercises

    Ankles run into all kinds of problems, like walking, wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes, flat feet, trauma, improper footing when performing exercises, arthritis, and even swimming. All of these can cause tendonitis – The inflammation surrounding tendons in the lower leg muscles.

    Despite what it may look like, the foot does not remain in the same position during up-and-down movements which is why it is important to maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

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    Flexibility allows for various positions (International Sports Sciences Association). In addition to the following exercises, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also effective for relieving ankle pain. Here are some examples of how to increase ankle and foot mobility:

    Planes of Motion

    Balancing your body’s planes of motion is necessary, not only for weight training and other exercise, but for gaining flexibility as well.

    Our body is a powerhouse because it is not limited to a single plan of motion movement, and instead has the ability to move in multiple directions – Sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

    For example, when doing flexibility exercises for your back, you should also work our abdominal muscles. Similarly, when weight-training your quadriceps, you should balance them by also training your hamstrings. This creates balance, coordination, and functionality:[5]

      Bonus Tip

      Keep in mind that stretching can go hand-in-hand with the use of sports medicine equipment, such as a foam roller to pre-condition tight muscles and break up lactic acid, compression apparel to maintain warmth, and even a lacrosse ball to target trigger points.[6]

      Now that you are familiar with stretches where common injuries occur, you should experience relief in multiple areas of your body and in your daily life. Tension, stress, and tight muscles can now be curtailed by effective stretching before and after your activities, and your muscles will be more relaxed and efficient, thereby increasing your performance.

      More Resources About Stretching Exercises

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Muscle Mechanics, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 166
      [2] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343
      [3] Top Fuel Crossfit: Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches: Lengthening the Spine
      [4] Rukmani Iyengar: 5 Yoga Asanas to Reduce Back Pain
      [5] Kai Simon: How To Improve Your Workout: Planes Of Motion
      [6] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343.

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      Terri West

      Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

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      Last Updated on November 19, 2019

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

      If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

      1. Create a Daily Plan

      Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

      2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

      Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

      3. Use a Calendar

      Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

      I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

      Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

      4. Use an Organizer

      An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

      These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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      5. Know Your Deadlines

      When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

      But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

      6. Learn to Say “No”

      Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

      Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

      7. Target to Be Early

      When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

      For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

      Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

      8. Time Box Your Activities

      This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

      You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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      9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

      Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

      10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

      Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

      You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

      11. Focus

      Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

      Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

      Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

      12. Block out Distractions

      What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

      I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

      When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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      Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

      13. Track Your Time Spent

      When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

      You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

      14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

      You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

      Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

      15. Prioritize

      Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

      Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      16. Delegate

      If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

      When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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      17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

      For related work, batch them together.

      For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

      1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
      2. coaching
      3. workshop development
      4. business development
      5. administrative

      I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

      18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

      What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

      One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

      While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

      19. Cut off When You Need To

      The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

      Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

      20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

      Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

      More Time Management Techniques

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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