Crisp air, colourful foliage and early sunsets. Autumn is the time of year to hike rural trails, walk your nearest apple orchard, and enjoy a s’more by the fire.
It’s these activities that keep us fit during the colder months (well, maybe not the s’mores). But, often, whether you’re laser-focused on your new workout routine or simply enjoy a leisurely walk on those brisk, Fall afternoons, it’s likely you’ve neglected one of the most critical components of fitness: stretching.
Even the simplest of stretches can improve posture, aid in balance and muscle coordination, increase blood flow, and alleviate muscle tension. Most importantly: the more you stretch, the more flexible you become.
But, which stretches will take you from wooden plank to pretzel?
Never fear: We’ve got you covered from Thanksgiving to Halloween – four weeks of stretches to keep you at your bendiest. Novice or pro, each stretch takes less time to complete than a pumpkin-flavoured beverage by your favourite barista.
Before you dive in, remember to stay in good form. Move with your breath and don’t over-do it. Go slow until you get the hang of each stretch. It’s best to perform these stretches after some light exercise – like walking, gardening or even cleaning the house.
Are you up for it? Make sure you share your photos with us on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag: #FallFlexibilityChallenge.
Let’s kick off this challenge with two stretches that will open your chest, stretch your obliques, and strengthen your back and hips. Take five minutes each day to work through these, and notice your chest feels stronger and lifted.
Front Body Stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on the base of your back – your fingers should be pointed towards the floor and grace the tops of your glutes. Your elbows can gently move towards each other. Use that placement of your hands as leverage to open your chest up towards the sky. On an inhale, lift your arms overhead to create a half-moon shape with your upper body.
Full Body Twist: Lay on your side. Bend your knees softly and stack one on top of the other. Extend your arms out in front of your torso, palms together. Use your top hand to trace a large circle along the floor across the top of your head, until that top arm is stretched out in the opposite direction of the bottom arm. Make sure both shoulder blades are firmly planted on the ground. Breathe deeply and relax here. Repeat on the other side.
It’s time to move a little further down. This week’s stretches will target your hamstrings, calves, achilles tendon and back.
Forward Fold: Start this classic but powerful stretch in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. On an inhale, reach your arms overhead while keeping a long, straight spine and with your shoulders away from your ears. On an exhale, bend your knees slightly, and slowly fold at the hips keeping your spine long. You can let your knees bend even more and hang like a rag doll with your opposite hand holding onto your opposite elbow, or start to gently straighten your knees and stretch your hamstrings.Try holding onto the back of your shins with the palms of your hands.
Downward Dog: This is possibly the most famous yoga pose. But if you’re not familiar, start with your hands and knees planted firmly on the floor, shoulder- and hip-width apart. Your palms should be facing down with your fingers splayed and extended forward. Move your shoulders away from your ears and reach your tailbone up to the ceiling. Hug your belly muscles in towards your spine and let your head hang with your ears between your biceps. Your body should look like an upside-down “V.”
You’re almost there. To celebrate, these stretches will keep you low to the ground. We’ll be stretching your latissimus dorsi and abdomen, and strengthening your spine.
Child’s Pose: Start with your hands and knees on the floor. The soles of your feet should face upward. Gently move your rear back onto your heels. With your torso comfortably rested on your thighs, extend your arms out in front of you.
Upward Dog: Lay with your stomach on your floor. The soles of your feet should face up. Press into your hands and gently peel your chest off the floor. Engage your abs. Slide your shoulders away from your ears to open your chest.
This last week will test your flexibility. These stretches focus on your deep abdominal muscles, hamstrings and hips.
Saw Stretch: Start in a seated position with both legs extended in front of you. Your toes should be pointed upwards. Stretch out both arms at shoulder level, broadening your wingspan. Move your left hand towards your right foot by gently twisting your torso. Extend your right hand towards your back. Repeat on the other side.
Lunge: Start in a standing position with feet hip-width apart. Keep your right foot firmly planted while lifting your left leg, reaching it two-to-three feet behind you, and placing the ball of your foot on the floor. Bend into your front knee and lower your hips until your front knee is at a 90 degree angle. Keep that front knee stacked over the ankle to protect both joints. Gently reach your back heel towards the wall behind you while strengthening and straightening that back leg. Keep your low spine long and strong, with your belly reaching away from your front thigh. You can keep your hands on your hips.
You might have missed a day or two, but simply participating in this challenge puts you one step – or stretch – closer to your health, fitness and flexibility goals.
At Physiomed, we’re here to guide you at every step of the way on your fitness journey. Let us know how you did with this year’s #FallFlexibilityChallenge on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.