Years ago- like when there were dinosaurs (ha, not really but it feels that way!)- I was a competitive swimmer. It was the best shape I’ve ever been in and I miss it. I miss how I felt. I miss being toned and feeling like I could swim a few kms without thinking much of it. There is such a good feeling that comes from exercise. Ah, those endorphins- whenever I hear that word I always think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy…”, so true Ms Woods, so true.
But there’s one thing I always remember about practice outside of the time in the pool: the stretching. We would spend about a third of practice stretching and warming up/ warming down. It was as important as the swimming itself. Remaining flexible- and going through stretches properly- are important not just when you’re pushing your body, but when you’re going through day- to- day life. To make sure your spine is always up to the challenge it is important to visit a chiropracter like Greater Life Chiropractic – Dr. Grant Lisetor.
When you’re not taking care of yourself- and this includes simple things like stretching- it’s that much easier to hurt yourself, and in the long run, you lose range of motion and flexibility. Not so great. I had my kids young so I could goof around with them, and enjoy being a little crazy as a Mom. To be the Mom that can keep up with her kids and chase them around the yard like a mad woman- I want to still be kicking ass when my kids are my age now. That’s a life goal right there and I plan to keep it.
When I saw that Irina’s fitness post for the month focused on flexibility and stretching, I smiled. Sometimes the simplest things make so much difference and I love her tips to help us stay flexible. So come on gals, let’s get flexible. 😉
Why is it important to be flexible?
Hands up who knows the answer to this question!
While many people know it’s important to be flexible, not many people understand why that is, and even fewer still know how to work on it.
Flexibility gives our body the range of motion it needs to work well on a daily basis. And, when it comes to exercising, the range of motion needed to perform exercises well. As we get older we lose flexibility and our muscles become more rigid. If we want to maintain our quality of life into old age, we can’t ignore stretching.
The majority of people fall into these two categories:
those who ignore stretching and
those who do it wrong
I want you to be neither of these which is why in this article I will share with you 6 secrets of how to stretch properly so you get the most out of your flexibility training.
Secret #1: Do a warm-up before you stretch
Even if your workout is all stretching you still need to start with a warm up. That’s because muscles are like a tough rubber band and not very stretchy. Do a quick 5min warm-up (run on the spot, jumping jacks, etc) followed by your workout. You will find that it’s much easier to get into the moves. Your body with thank you
Secret #2: Stretch at the end of your workout not at the start
For the longest time people would start their workouts with stretching but science has shown that there is little benefit to be gained from stretching cold muscles. The optimal time to stretch is at the end of your workout when your muscles are warm and already loose because you just worked them out!
Secret #3: Hold the stretch
Another mistake I see people making is holding a stretch for less than 5 seconds. In order for a stretch to be effective, you need to hold it for at least 20s. Anything less than that doesn’t really do anything. I like to recommend a 30 seconds hold to my clients. It might be useful to time yourself the first few times. 30 seconds is longer than you think!
As you hang out for the 30s seconds see if you can get further into the move. You’re trying to develop flexibility so see if you can push a little further. It should feel slightly uncomfortable but not painful.
Secret #4: Breathe
Breathing is extremely important when it comes to stretching. It’s very easy to forget to breathe when you stretch but your muscles still need oxygen and blood. Moreover, your muscles relax on the exhale – so you need to breathe to get that effect! I like to take nice deep breaths when I stretch. It’s meant to be relaxing. I think of stretching as my opportunity to relax and let go of my day. I focus on my breathing and let everything else drift away. For 10 min, it’s your chance to live in the moment!
Secret #5: Listen to your body
Stretching is meant to maintain and develop flexibility not to hurt you. Yes, there is an element of discomfort, but you shouldn’t be gritting your teeth when you stretch and you shouldn’t feel any sharp pains. Being slightly uncomfortable is ok but you should be able to breathe through it and feel relaxed. Stretching should feel like a release. If it feels too intense, back off a little bit and if you experience strange sharp pains you should definitely check with a doctor.
Your body will tell you if something isn’t right – don’t ignore it!
Secret #6: If it’s tight, stretch it
I like to recommend to my clients that they stretch the muscles they worked that day, but also any areas of tightness that we discover together. Any area that is particularly tight should always be a focus when you’re stretching. For example, I would still want someone with tight hamstrings to stretch them even if we’ve done upper body that day.
Typical areas of tightness that I see in my mommy clients are:
Hamstrings/hip flexors (from all the sitting down while nursing)
Optimal flexibility is pretty tough to achieve because our lives work so hard against that! But I certainly feel it’s worthwhile to try to offset the damage as much as we can! Being able to move and have good range of motion is incredibly important so I challenge you to find at least 5min of stretching in your day. Your body will thank you!
And remember to check out the other posts as part of this series, for more fitness education tips for moms:
Irina discovered fitness by accident after having her daughter and started Tone Every Zone out of an overwhelming desire to help other busy individuals such as moms juggle a hectic lifestyle while staying active. Irina loves teaching people about fitness and working with them as a team to make long lasting lifestyle changes.
To get in touch with Irina about her personal training services please email her at email@example.com, or get in touch through her website. You can also follow Irina on social media for more great fitness education tips:
Tone Every Zone is a mobile personal training company servicing New Westminster, as well as parts of Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody and Surrey. Tone Every Zone comes to you, saving you the cost of gym memberships, and eliminating the need to adhere to a schedule set by a commercial gym. To learn more, please visit: www.toneeveryzone.ca
Thank you to these partners for collaborating on this post series:
Life is busy. I’ve always heard about how hard it can be for people- Moms especially- to carve out some time for themselves. You have to make yourself a priority. Sounds easy enough, but now that I’m there it often is easier said than done.
I love being healthy but admit that exercise is often one of the first things that I forgo when things get busy. As it is I fit my work and the blog around my family, leaving precious little quiet time while the kids are sleeping during the day to do much else than tidy up, prep meals/ snacks, and maybe get some work done. Once bed time rolls around I love to get in a little run or other form of exercise if I have the time and energy, but let’s face it, isn’t that the time of day when you’ve got to fit in the things that didn’t get done earlier?
So enough with the guilt and pressure to try and do a million other things. It’s time to take some time out for ourselves. Years ago I was an avid swimmer and hope to take that up this Fall when the weather cools off and I’m ok to spend more time inside. But I don’t want to wait until then to get more active. Aside from my weekly run I love the idea of doing yoga. I did prenatal yoga while pregnant with Ari and Will does it every morning. I love that it’s a form of exercise that helps you re- centre, focus inward, and is soothing for the soul. With all of the hustle and bustle of daily life, yoga helps us to slow down. I’ve recently been enjoying some yoga DVDs from Namaste TV and not only is my body starting to slowly flex and stretch again, I’m loving the sense of calm and accomplishment I’ve been feeling because I’m making myself slow down and focus on this one task (find out how you can try out a set of DVDs for yourself at the end of this post!).
The DVDs feature several episodes, each with an introduction, warm- up, main exercise, and cool- down, and savasana. Depending how much time I’ve got I’ll sometimes just skip to the main workout, which is about 15 minutes long and perfect to slip in on busy days.
I love yoga, but I’m definitely still a novice- I still have to look at the screen to know what some of the poses are- but my flexibility and balance are improving and a couple rounds in and I can touch the floor again (yay!). I enjoy the challenge of trying to improve upon my last session and perfecting the poses. Some I might never quite pull off as well as the talented ladies in the DVDs, but it gives me something to aspire to.
There will always be something else that needs doing on that never ending to- do list, but you have to make time for yourself and exercise- even just a quick workout- to help way stay healthy (let’s face it: we’re no good to anyone if we’re sick). So make yourself a priority & block off some time each day that you dedicate to yourself (see the tips below to help make this easier), you’ll be glad you did.
If you’ve been wanting to try yoga or get back into practicing since having kids, the workouts that Namaste TV offers are great because you can try them at home when you get the chance/ have the time. You don’t have to worry about packing up the kids or organizing childcare so you can fit in a workout. This is also great if you’re a little self- conscious about your form and don’t feel ready to try a class yet. And just in case you’re still doubtful about how successful you’ll be trying out yoga at home, here are some tips to help make the most of your at- home yoga workout:
Yoga Tips for Busy Moms: How to
get the Most out of Your Practice
1. Create a Sacred Space
It’s hard to relax if
everywhere you look you see something that needs tidying up. Whether it’s
your bedroom, your patio or your living room after you’ve cleaned it for the day, try to
find a peaceful place to practice your yoga. A view that connects you to
nature is wonderful, but a few house plants, candles or even a special scent
can help quiet your mind.
2. Shut down electronics
Turn off your computer or
sign out of social media. Use emergency call screening so that you’ll only be
interrupted by the calls you absolutely need to take. Everything else –
yes even your own mother – can wait for 25 minutes.
3. Make it a Habit
You’ll always be able to
find a hundred other things you could do besides yoga. Make it a
non-negotiable part of your day, even if it’s just five or ten minutes.
One great thing about yoga compared to other workouts, is even a few minutes a
day can help you relax, re-focus and revitalize.
4. Do it first thing in the
If you’re struggling to
make time for yoga, doing it first thing in the morning can be one of the best
times. You’ll start the day with a calm mind and an awareness of your own
body that you can carry with you through the rest of the day.
5. Involve your kids
So far we’ve talked about
making yoga your ‘me’ time, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Some
mom’s find doing yoga with their children around too stressful, but other’s
absolutely love it. At a certain age children love to copy their parents,
or you can purposefully make yoga a mother-child activity. Children are
more likely to be active if they see their parents exercising, so you’ll be
serving yourself and your little
… And just in case I haven’t got you convinced to make some time for yourself, how about a little giveaway for incentive: Namaste TV is offering up a set of their yoga DVDs for one lucky TPB reader to enjoy some yoga at home! Go to the blog’s Contests page to enter. Good luck!
Living a healthy lifestyle is a goal for a lot of people, but not always one we put first. With work, family, and other things taking up our time we often forget to take care of ourselves.
But it doesn’t take as much time or work as we think it does (so quit the excuses!). Here’s some great advice from Chelsea Van Blankers, a certified personal trainer & fitness instructor on how to get healthy (and stay healthy!).
Get Moving: Exercise
There is no need to spend hours in the gym! Even 10-15 minute bursts of activity are beneficial. When short on time concentrate on large
muscle groups and combination moves. This will burn more calories and cut your
workout time in half.
For example add bicep curls when doing a lunge. (Holding
a set of dumbbells step one foot back and lower into a lunge position, do a
bicep curl before pressing back up. Then step your feet together and repeat on
the opposite side.)
Another trick is to add in a plyometric move. This will get
your heart rate up, training your aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same
time. In other words you are doing your cardio and strength training in the
same workout! Example do a set of 8-12 lunge and bicep curls then a set of
10-20 jumping jacks or mountain climbers. There is also no need to do 100’s of
crunches to get a flat tummy. Always mindfully engage your core throughout your
entire workout. Remember spot reduction
is a myth, abs are really made in the kitchen!
150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week and a minimum of 2 days of strength training will help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. The more activity you do the more health benefits are gained.
Food for Thought:
Body composition plays a huge part in your nutritional needs because muscle takes more calories to maintain (even when you
are not exercising) than fat. So grab a set of weights!
Everyone’s needs are different. Ditch the fad diets: low carb, no carb, low
fat, no fat, replacement meal shakes, cleanses etc. You will never experience
long term results on a short term quick fix. All macro nutrients are important
(carbohydrates, fats and proteins).
counting calories and eat nutrient dense foods. The less processed the food the
better it is for you. Get real about what a portion size looks like and fill
your plate with colour.
The biggest challenge with our diet is to
listen to our body. Are you really hungry? Or are you bored, emotional or
thirsty? Most of us are dehydrated and
thirst disguises itself as hunger. By drinking 2 litres of fresh water a day
you will cut cravings and improve your skin and digestion. My water bottle
never leaves my side.
Be mindful when you are eating. Really
taste your food. I know it sounds ridiculous but we are always in a rush and
our eating habits have suffered from it. When you stop and enjoy your food and
chew it properly (which will aid in digestion and nutrient absorption) you will
take in fewer calories and feel more satisfied. It takes 15 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are
full. A lot of extra calories and be
eaten in those 15 minutes. We all have felt the ‘I’m about to explode’ I ate
too much feeling after a big dinner. Being mindful will help avoid those
Get Your A@s in Gear: Get Help
With so much conflicting information out
there about health and fitness it is hard to know where to start. A Personal Trainer can help you reach your
goals faster by creating a program tailored to your specific needs and goals,
to fit into your schedule. On top of
teaching you proper technique and form a personal trainer will coach you
through all the bumps in the road that come with making a lifestyle. And most importantly make it fun and
A huge thank you to Chelsea for her advice for this post!
About Chelsea: Chelsea
Van Blankers is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor and 200RYT Yoga Teacher who is passionate about fitness. Living in Delta, BC, she recently returned from a backpacking trip to Peru where she visited a once in a lifetime treck to Machu Pichu. To find out more about Chelsea & her fitness services, visit her website: Chelseavanbfitness.com
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