Fitness · Health

Limbering Up: A Little Goes a Long Way

Jonathan for web

This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shows us how to warm up to prepare our bodies and our minds for a more effective and enjoyable workout.
 

 

I remember when I was in my 20s how I would wake up, lace on my shoes, and just head out for a run. My body was limber and springy and I didn’t need any warm up. Well, as most people past a certain age have come to realize, things have changed. Nowadays, when I get up in the morning, my body is creaky and stiff, and even bending over to put on my shoes can be an effort. To alleviate this “old body” feeling, I have found that doing just five minutes of light stretching and calisthenics makes all the difference in the world. The fact is most of us could use some good limbering up exercises and stretches, especially as a way to prepare our bodies and our minds for a more effective and enjoyable workout.
 
Before a cardio workout like fitness walking, a few targeted stretches and movements will go a long way. Some of my favorites are listed below. They can be done in any order.

Extended Calf Stretch: The calves and Achilles tendons are two of the strongest and tightest areas of the body. We’ve all probably done some version of this common stretch, but I like to extend the leg pretty far back and push away with almost straight arms. Your body should be on the same angle as your back leg, and there should be very little weight on your front foot. This just feels like a bigger stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.

Seated Hip Stretch: Sitting toward the front of a firm chair, cross your right foot over your left leg near the knee in what is known as a “Figure 4” position. Start by gently pressing the inside of the right thigh open to release the inner thigh and stretch the connective tissues of the inner hip. Then fold your body over with a straight back to stretch the outer hip and gluteal muscles. Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch with the other leg.

Wall Shoulder Stretch:  (Note: Although your legs are doing most of the work, power walking requires you to also swing your arms. If you are carrying tension in your neck, chest, and shoulders, it will inhibit your freedom of movement and breathing. This simple stretch helps alleviate upper body tightness.) Standing with the right side of your body next to a door jam or edge of a wall, reach the right arm out to the side and bend it ninety degrees at the elbow with the lower arm pointing up. Place the forearm of the bent arm (palm to elbow) against the edge of the doorframe or wall. Step forward with your right leg and lean forward to feel a stretch in the front of your right chest and shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left arm.

Arm Circles on One Leg: Standing with feet hip distance apart, circle both arms around one way for 10 times, then reverse. Repeat again but this time lift one foot off the ground. Keep standing, knee bent.

Arm Circles  ……      One Leg Arm Circles

 

Lunge on Step with Twist: Facing some steps, place your right foot two steps up and bend your right leg. Bend your left leg and gently lean forward to feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. From there, twist your torso to the right to deepen the stretch. Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. (Note: image of twist not shown).

Lunge on step

Everyone is different, and chances are that you may already have some warm-up exercises that feel right for you. I just know that limbering up makes me and my clients feel better, and it also helps to bring awareness to our bodies and how they move. That’s always a good thing. Now get out there and have a great workout!

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  • Anne August 22, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Write on, Jonathan. Your limbering stretches work well any time (not only before workout) and your pointers about alignment on target for my ageing body. More suggestions?

    Reply