It’s been a hectic day. You woke up early to get in a quick cardio session at the gym, scurried to the office and endured back-to-back meetings, then sifted through a jungle of e-mails. You dashed off to a networking event and shook a few dozen hands while balancing a drink and a stack of business cards. Now, it’s past 10pm and you’re finally home, wound up with a tightly clenched jaw and hunched shoulders from the busyness and buzz of a jam-packed schedule.
Time to relax? Sipping a glass of wine or indulging in a warm bubble bath are some options. Before you do that, here’s a suggestion to help you naturally unwind and simultaneously improve your fitness regimen.
Stretching Relieves Stress
I’m talking about the humble stretch. Stretching helps you develop and maintain a healthy level of flexibility– maximizing the range of motion of any particular joint. It also increases circulation to parts of the body, and aides in post-workout recovery. Plus, it feels great and helps with overall relaxation and well-being.
Bottom line: stretching is good for the body, everywhere.
Here how to get the proper stretch
To avoid injuries resulting from stretching too-tight muscles, it’s best to give your body a little shake. Stand up, roll the shoulders out, rotate the torso, walk around or shuffle in place for a few minutes, and just get the blood flowing through your body. I recommend that you visualize “shaking off” the stress and tension of the day to clear your head and ease your body.
Stretching should be done in a slow, mindful and controlled manner. Aim to “milk” each movement without bouncing or forcing. Any sudden or sharp tweaks can increase your risk of injury, so please be careful. Your stretch should stop at the point mild discomfort, not pain. If you feel strain or pain, you have stretched too far (so stop immediately and readjust).
Take Deep Breaths
When going through the hustle-bustle of the day, we often forget to breathe. Well, not completely forget (or you’d be dead), but those short, shallow breaths don’t exactly channel the physical and mental relaxation needed for an effective stretch. I suggest deep, steady breaths that will actually facilitate deeper stretches. Added benefits of deep breaths? They help calm the mind and the nervous system. You’ll feel better and think better.
Take Your Time
Go ahead and turn on your favorite slow song in the background. Transition from one stretch to another in a natural, fluid manner, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds. One sustained position at a time. By the time a five-minute song is over, you’ll have hit all the major muscle groups.
A well-executed stretch will allow you to give a “gift” to your body, loosening it up after all you put it through day in, day out.
To make this a consistent habit try stretching for five minutes in the morning when you get out of bed, or while you’re brewing your morning coffee or steeping tea. You can find many effective stretch examples online, or borrow a few favorites from your last yoga class. Breathe…and stretch. Now, time to plan for tomorrow’s chaotic adventure.
Looking for ways to de-stress during work hours? Here are a few simple steps to a more relaxed nine to five.