STRETCHING!

As you are probably aware, stretching is a very important part of physical fitness.  If you saw BLACK SWAN, you saw Natalie Portman’s character  (Nina Sayers) stretching to warm up before she went to class and rehearsal.  You also see professional athletes stretching before they take the field, the court, run a marathon, etc…  So what’s so magical about a stretch?

Stretching warms up the muscles so they are safely able to perform and complete an exercise routine.   Over time stretching increases flexibility and range of motion.  Having access to your maximum range of motion helps with coordination and posture!  (Posture also helps makes you appear more confident – which can help you book a job or just make you more attractive to the cute guy/girl sitting across the bar.)  Stretching also helps your blood flow!  Waking up those muscles and getting them moving helps/increases circulation and flushes out waste byproducts and toxins in your muscle tissue!  No one likes waste byproducts and toxins!  So – stretching is awesome.  You should do it.

A few things to remember about stretching.  You always want to start out gentle and slow.  You never want to “force” a position.  You wouldn’t run a marathon 30 seconds after your morning alarm goes off.  Unless you are extremely hyper mobile, your muscles probably don’t want to be doing full splits as your first physical activity of the day.  Ease into positions and hold the positions for approximately 30 seconds, return to neutral, then repeat.  Despite what you see in crazy 80’s work out videos, you don’t want to “bounce” in a stretch position.   It looks weird and does nothing for your muscles except potentially hurt them.  Instead, try to hold a position for 30 to 90 seconds and reach a little bit further with every repetition of the stretch.

About.com has a wonderful article on easy “morning stretches,” which you can check out here. 

I would like to now share three of my favorite stretches to do in front of the television.  I always find my late night t.v. time to be the best time to really stretch myself out well.  Ideally you would do a full stretch session both before and after your work out, but if you are extremely busy (as most musicians are) – t.v. time works really most marvelously!

Here is a video of the delightful Colleen O’Brien (who I managed to bribe into being my stretch model) doing the “diamond stretch.”  It is a wonderful stretch with which to start, and is excellent for stretching out your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

Two other stretch ideas for the day:

THE SITTING DOWN TOE TOUCH:

Sit down with your legs zipped together straight out in front of you.  Start by sitting up as tall as you possibly can with your hands by your waist.  Slowly, walk your hands forward as you bend your torso forward.

The goal is to touch your toes with your torso as flat as a pancake on top of your legs.  If you aren’t that flexible, don’t worry.  Go as far as you can comfortably.  A modification to make the stretch easier is to bend your knees slightly.

STRADDLES:
While you are touching your toes, you can work our your straddles.    Again, sit up as straight as you can with your legs zipped together in front of you.  Move your legs to hip width apart.   Gently bend your torso forward to try and touch your toes.  As you continue practicing this stretch, you can put your legs further and further apart until your are a full straddle.  
ENJOY LENGTHENING YOUR MUSCLES!:)