May 12, 2023

The “S” Word – My #1 Tip For Fitness Longevity (Shhh…It’s Stretching)

Stretching is wholly and completely my #1 fitness tip

At age 60, I’m still teaching high-impact, one-hour jam sessions 4 days a week. My secret? Stretching – wholly and completely.

Why Stretching is your body’s best tool for a youthful, dynamic life…longer.

If you take the time to read my blogs (thank you!), you are a fitness-minded person who enjoys an active lifestyle.

I have a quick question for you, after a brisk walk along the Radnor Trail (5.2 miles), how much time do you spend fully and completely stretching out directly afterward? Yep, thought so…

When I am not teaching class, stretching is not something I actively think about either. There are so many more important things to do!

As someone who has been teaching one-hour HIIT high-impact classes four times a week for over 14 years, I know without a fact, that the reason I am still able to it – at this age – is because we do a comprehensive set of stretches after each and every class.

My mission in this newsletter is to encourage our Mojo Online friends not to do a ditch and dive just before our cool down (I’m “watching” you!) and to share some of the best, easy-to-remember stretches outside of class for our lower body. 

Stretching 101…What’s the big deal?
Stretching tends to be the most neglected component of fitness because they are a little boring and they take a little more time. We tend to focus on it only after an ailment has already developed. The problem is, that most potential injuries are due to incremental neglect. By the time you know there is an issue, it’s already too late. Snap! (Hence the cartoon)

Our muscles’ natural default position is to shorten and become tight. Without stretching, they gradually weaken and lose their flexibility and range of motion – which puts us at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

To enjoy a pain-free, agile life long into your senior years, stretching a little bit every day NOW is the best way to get you there. Do you think you are too young, fit, and pain-free to have to worry about tight muscles? The most common demographic for muscle injury are athletes who over-train and don’t allow proper after-care and repair for their muscles. For long-term health, at every age, the idea is to train smarter, not harder.

Do you enjoy regular long walks, runs, or jogs? Wonderful! While you may feel you did not overly strain yourself, you are doing a repetitive movement that is taxing on your hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. Skipping the stretch is an injury (Back pain, plantar fasciitis, knee sensitivities) waiting to happen.

All the stretches we do in our LIVE and virtual cool downs are perfect for increasing circulation, lubricating, lengthening, and strengthening tight muscles. Click here to check out Mojo Online’s “Cool Down & Stretching” library in our “Focused Routines” Section. In the meantime, here are a few key lower body stretches to keep in your back pocket.

For those of you who are regular Mojo friends, you can do these stretches in your sleep. I’m asking you to please consider doing them after long walks/jogs outside of class as well. Your future self will be so thankful! 

Please note: These stretches should only be done when your muscles are warm. Challenge yourself to lengthen your muscles as much as possible and hold for 15 seconds or so. In order to be effective, these stretches are supposed to be a little uncomfortable. Pain is not good and is a sign that you should let up on the stretch.

  
Hamstring, calf and glute stretches.
Gently pull straight back on your toes for a calf stretch try cocking your toes to the right for another angle.  

 
Hamstring, calf and glute stretches – repeat on both sides.


Groin muscle stretch – repeat on both sides

Stressed? Try these gentle neck and shoulder stretches
   
Most of us spend tons of hours seated every day which can lead to neck and shoulder stiffness. Here is a list of some easy, soothing stretches for the neck by orthopedists at Wellness 52. It’s like giving yourself a gentle massage!
 
Our muscles can’t speak to let us know they need your attention. Try picturing this instead. 
      
On the left, is what our muscles and tendons look like without proper “watering” (aka. stretching and hydration) incorporated into our lifestyle.
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