by Gary Hicks
Stretching aids in keeping the muscles flexible and strong, improves circulation, and helps maintain proper range of motion in the joints. The simple act of stretching enhances muscle control and makes many activities more comfortable and, in some cases, almost effortless.
At the beginning of a stretching routine, you may experience soreness and discomfort. It can take a few weeks for the muscles to adapt to the changes you’re introducing, so stretching takes some commitment to the process. Ease into it, just like any other exercise, and the rewards will be noticeable.
Tightness in the hamstring muscles often increases stress in the lower back, which can lead to sciatica and other painful conditions. Some people who experience lower back pain find relief by introducing a simple hamstring stretching routine into their day.
Here are a few things to consider when you decide to incorporate a stretching routine into your life:
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing
- Slowly ease into the movements, and hold them without bouncing. (Bouncing could cause strains or other injuries to tight muscles.)
- Hold each position for 20-30 seconds when starting a stretching program
Be patient with your progress. Do not force your body into painful positions.
Monthly Fitness Challenge for April
Try this stretching routine 3-5 days per week. After your stretching routine, perform 30 minutes of cardio exercise (walk, jog, bike, aerobics, etc.)
Chair hamstring stretch: Sitting on a chair, place your right leg straight out on a second chair while keeping the left leg on the floor. Reach toward the shoelaces of your right foot and hold position for 20-30 seconds. Stretch 3 times and then switch to do the same with your left leg on the chair.
Standing hamstring stretch: While standing, bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down toward the ground and with legs straight. Try to touch your shoelaces and hold your position for 20-30 seconds.
Knee-to-chest stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using both hands, grab your right lower leg around the shin, and pull your right knee to your chest. This motion should cause a slight stretch in your lower back. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Release slowly and return to starting position, then switch legs. Repeat stretch 3 times on each leg.
Be sure to let others know how you are progressing by commenting on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/bridgetowellnesschallenge.
Upcoming wellness coalition-sponsored programs open to all:
- Practical Cooking with a Pro – class taught by Jackie Scheller and organized by Stockbridge Community Outreach to help students learn how to cook delicious, economical and satisfying meals and learn some marketable kitchen skills. Free, but space is limited. Call Outreach at 517-851-7285 by April 5 to register. Next session starts April 12 and meets weekly on Monday afternoons or evenings for six weeks.
- Open Air Market of Stockbridge’s Indoor Market is scheduled for April 10, 11 am to 2 pm at Back Street Building, 118 N. Center, Stockbridge. Open Air Market returns to the Stockbridge town square Friday, May 7, 4–7pm.
- Powerful Tools for Caregivers free workshop via Zoom, Thursday, April 15–May 20, 2021, 1–2:30pm. To register, call Tri-County Office on Aging at 517-887-1465 or e-mail Christine at email@example.com. Focuses on self-care, decision-making, and dealing with your own feelings of anger, guilt, and depression. This workshop is funded by SAWC and the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation.
This column is sponsored by the Stockbridge Area Wellness Coalition. Remember, if you have health challenges that could hamper your ability to exercise, check with your doctor before taking on a new exercise regimen. Author Gary A. Hicks, a veteran police sergeant with a passion for fitness, writes the fitness portion. He has over 35 years of experience in teaching, coaching, martial arts instruction, and police academy instruction.