The Small Steps series is heading into the home stretch and the last two months of the year are the most difficult for most of us to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise. So I’ve chosen a less taxing goal for this month’s Small Step. However, it is no less vital in the series.
Flexibility training and its sister component, balance training, are often overlooked in the realm of fitness. But, they’re just as important as cardio and strength training and eating healthy if the goal is a fit life.
Add Flexibility Training To What You Already Do
If you aren’t doing any stretching on a regular basis, then your assignment this month is to finish every exercise routine or physical chore you do – at the gym, walk in the neighborhood, ride on the bike path, strength training routine, gardening and housecleaning – with stretches.
Don’t stretch cold muscles before your workout. Stretch only at the conclusion of workouts when muscles are warmed up. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and stretch especially tight muscles a second time. At minimum, stretch all the muscles that were the primary workers during your exercise. But, if you have the time, it’s even better to stretch all the major muscle groups. Photos of commons stretches and the areas of the body they benefit are shown throughout this post.
Kick Flexibility & Balance Training Up a Notch
If you already stretch after working out, consider incorporating one yoga or mat Pilates routine weekly. This can be accomplished at your health club, at a yoga or Pilates studio, by DVD, through a fitness app, or via online video. The last two options, app and online video, can often be accessed for free.
These disciplines also run the gamut of intensities and forms. So, if you’re thinking that you just don’t have the time in your week to add one more workout, consider replacing one of your usual cardio or strength routines with a yoga or Pilates workout that incorporates cardio or strength.
Or perhaps time isn’t the issue but, rather, you’re wanting a break from the intensity of the traditional modes of exercise. In that case, find a gentle or relaxation yoga class or video.
Because flexibility and balance training rely on a practice of proper breathing and mental focus, they’re proven to help relieve stress and promote overall feelings of well being. Meaning, what you’ll find is not only are flexibility and balance training good for the body but the mind and soul as well. What a perfect thing to practice before heading into the hectic holiday season.
If you’re new to the Small Steps series, you can read about the philosophy and strategies of the series here. Know the Small Steps strategies don’t need to be done in any particular order and are independent of one another. So, you can begin the series with this post, continue throughout the rest of the year and pick up what you missed next year.
Previous Small Steps posts: January’s Portion Control, February’s Plan Ahead, March’s Accentuate the Positives, Eliminate the Negatives, April’s Substitutions, May’s Go Old School, June’s +1, July’s Reflect, Revamp & Renew, August’s Sleep Your Way to Fit, September’s Tech It Up.
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