PART ONE – A HEAD-TO-TOE STRETCH
Part 1 – A head-to-toe stretch, is the beginning of a series designed to teach you how to stretch each part of your body safely and carefully. Please read the other posts in the Exercise category on livefatandfit.com. They include everything from why Stretching is Essential to ideas in and around Practical Fitness and Tangible Goals.
Again, I will ask that you read my disclaimer to the right and remember this information is for entertainment purposes and not to in any way circumvent instruction by a personal trainer or physiotherapist. Please discuss with your Primary Care Provider that you are going to start a stretching practice.
All stretching should be done with a warm body. I suggest some loud music and a few minutes of dancing before you begin.
Always consider your limitations. Have you had a previous neck injury, perhaps a whiplash or pulled muscle?
Start with your head held high, shoulders square, chest out. Your chin should be parallel to the floor and your face directly forward.
You want to move into your stretch slowly and carefully, with no sudden moves. Think about all the directions your neck moves in and stretch in those ways. You must maintain you safe starting position as above throughout your stretches.
Your first movement should always be only as far as your neck moves easily.
Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, take in a deep breath and on the exhale, carefully see if you can stretch further. If you cannot that is okay, THIS TAKES TIME. If you can increase the stretch, hold it in the increased position for another 20-30 seconds. Inhale, bringing your neck back up to the starting position as you exhale. You want to stretch in each direction for a total of approximately 60 seconds.
- Chin towards the right shoulder
- Chin towards the left shoulder.
- Chin to the chest.
- Ear towards the right shoulder.
- Ear towards the left shoulder.
Remember all of the muscles in your body are connected. In this case, you cannot do neck stretching without using shoulder muscles too. I suggest some neck/head circles and some arm circles forward and back before you stop.
Eventually, A Head-to-toe Stretch series will include posts regarding shoulder and arm stretching, torso stretching, leg stretching and whole body stretches. I want for you to learn this carefully, one muscle group at a time, so make a regular plan to stretch your neck and eventually you can add the rest of your body.
Harvard Health has a great short article on The Ideal Stretching Routine. I feel ultimately you want to stretch your body about 20 minutes total in each practice, when of course you have the full head-to-toe stretch learned, with each muscle group taking about 5 minutes. There must be time for a warm up and a cool down. Never just sit still after a stretch. Do some chores around the house or something basic to keep your body moving a bit for about 5 minutes after your stretch.
BUILDING A PRACTICE
This takes time. Make some decisions about when you will stretch to fit it into your day. This will best be a time that works with your other commitments and sets you up for success. You can do some gentle stretching while working too.
Set an intention to stretch like “I will stretch every other day in the early evening,” but do not berate yourself when you miss an intended stretch. Negative self talk helps nothing. Stretch when you intended next time and on and on! I do tell my clients that once you start moving your body you should not stop. Keep moving your body. Ultimately, you will not want to stop because you will feel better!
Good Luck and please email me with any questions about your personal stretching practice at firstname.lastname@example.org.