Stretching and Rolling

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Yesterday I danced my butt off!! It was the perfect way to spend the first day of the year. Great company, awesome dancing. Before leaving to go dancing I thought to myself I wanted to stretch as I knew this kind of dancing requires my whole body, but I didn’t make time for it. So I paid for it afterwards. When I got home, my whole body was feeling it. I was exhausted, the kind of exhausted from awesome physical activity, and I was achy. Especially my hips and low back. I knew this would happen as I have not been on top of my flexibility lately. After taking a shower, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with my husband and watch a movie. And although we did watch a movie, I chose to spend the first 20 minutes of it foam rolling. As I finished, I think my words were “This tool is magic”.

I cannot stretch enough (pun not intended) the importance of flexibility. When I talk about flexibility I do not mean being able to do the splits or bend backwards until your hair touches your butt, or even touching your toes. Flexibility looks different for everybody. Obviously the more you stretch the closer to touching your toes you will be (If you are not there already). But the point of stretching should not be so you can do the splits or touch your toes, it should be so you can move your body efficiently and safely in whatever physical movements you choose to partake in. Although I can touch my toes on any given day, there are days that it takes more effort to get there, or where the tightness in my hamstrings (the back of my thighs) is more intense. That is because I need to stretch and release. Which I did not do before dancing. So although I look limber and can touch my toes, it does mean my body is at it’s most efficient.

Going in to any physical activity improperly stretched, can put you at greater risk for injury. Although I am definitely not injured from my intense dancing session, if I do not take the proper steps I could get there. Especially if I keep exercising without taking the time to release the tension build up in my body. And the #1 step, is self myofacial release. Which is where my friend the foam roller comes in. If you do not own one, I strongly recommend you getting one. It doesn’t take much space, and it can be used in numerous ways to help with all kinds of body movements.

For the purpose of today’s post and because this is what I am working on myself I will share a video of using the foam roller on your IT band (the side of the leg), your hips and glutes. All these muscles being tight play a big role lower back pain. Stretching your back when you have tightness there, might help some, but the true culprit is your lower body. (I am not referring to back pain due to injury, or spinal dysfunction or disk problems.) The roller I use here is this one. But if you are new to rolling, I recommend you get a softer one, and even a longer one. The longer one has more versatility and can be used for many other things.

For the sake of your body’s health, and for improved mobility and flexibility, make sure to properly stretch regularly. Oh, and did I mention that walking is a physical activity? So if you are someone who walks, you should stretch regularly.

When grumpy leads to self myofascial release

Today was a hard day. For several reasons. None of these reasons really matter, what matters is what comes out of a challenging day. And the first thing I am able to be aware of is to be gentle on myself. When the realization that today was going to be harder than usual, I chose to embrace that and make decisions coming from a place of acceptance and not of desire. Sure, the desire to make this a better day was present, but I have learned from experience that fighting too hard to change something like this just makes it last longer and can make me feel even worse. So I let go of desire and just melted in to acceptance and surrender. I allowed myself to be mediocre and to do the bare minimum. I allowed myself to loose patience and feed my family take out. Today was not a day to go run stairs with the boys or do a playground workout. Today was not a day to prep an awesome meal and dance in the kitchen. Today was a day for stretching and releasing. This is when my (not so?) gentle companions come in handy. 

 

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Meet my back buddy and my foam roller. These two are pros at releasing tension in the body. And wether the tension is created by stress, fatigue or exercise, it needs to be released. Holding on to stress is what creates a life that is less than Good. The back buddy helps in reaching points in the back specifically that is hard for us to get to. It will access your trap muscles (at the base of your neck) where tension most frequently builds, as well as many other points of your body. The foam roller is particularly great for getting to the lower body and digging deep in muscle fascia in the legs, glutes and hips that we don’t get to by doing regular stretches. With both of these guys, we can get a good all over body muscular release in the comfort of our own home, and more importantly, when ever we feel we need it. Using both of these tools do hurt a bit. Depending on how often you stretch and do this kind of work, it might even hurt a lot. That means you need it even more. 

On days like today I have learned to not push beyond what I feel motivated to do and take advantage of my low energy state to focus on a more gentle form of physical activity. Although some believe that one should “train hard, push your limits every day, sweat like a beast, don’t listen to your body and push harder, etc…..”, I believe it is very important to recognize when some TLC is in order. I think it is important to move our bodies daily, sweat and challenge ourselves regularly, and push our limits at times, as much as it is important to stretch, breath, focus on tension points and do physical work that requires little movement. Taking the time to use my two companions today gave me so much more strength than I would have gotten from pushing myself and running stairs or doing an intense workout. Taking the time to do this form of physical work allowed me to be present with myself, breath and release any physical and emotional stress I was holding on to. 

Today might not have been ideal but it was definitely worth living. I can go to bed more relaxed both physically and emotionally because I gave myself the time I needed to work through it all. It was a good reminder to be gentle on myself and to keep on keeping on. Living  a Good Life is not about never experiencing sadness, pain or discomfort, living a Good Life is about recognizing our own power in those moments and making the choices that will allow us to pick ourselves up with ease once the storm has passed. I am dedicated to living a Good Life, with all its struggles, challenges, beauty and thrills. Making healthy decisions is what allows me to do just that.