Women often tend to accumulate stress in certain parts of their body, making it important to prioritize stretching to prevent future health issues. Trainer, Cheryl Coppa, shares tips on how to incorporate stretching in your daily lives
By Cheryl Coppa
Stretching for even a short time is something that should be done every day. Depending on what you do (or do not do) during the day, your muscles will get tight and short. For example, if you are at a desk or sitting all day, your hamstrings are going to shorten and pull on other muscles, and even pull your pelvis out of alignment, which would then put pressure on the pelvic floor, and oh boy, I could go on! Everything is connected, so stretching one muscle, or a few of them, is going to do the whole body some good.
Many times, especially as women, we carry stress in certain parts of our body, so stretching and releasing tension is going to be essential to prevent it from turning into something bigger, or so you don’t hang on to those nagging pains.
This doesn’t mean you have to stretch every muscle in your body either, but you will feel good, and not be as stiff and achy. You can see now why this is something you can benefit from doing daily!
Stretching daily does not mean spending 30 minutes a day on this (unless you want to, of course). I personally only dedicate 30 minutes a week to pure stretching and mobility movements. On the other days, I do the exercises that I’ll share with you below. They are really easy to slip in at any time of the day, just here and there.
Let’s focus on lower body muscles and shoulders -these seem to be the most bothersome for women in particular.
The following exercises are really easy and feel good. It’s important to note mobility here as well. It's almost impossible not to bring the topic of mobility up when talking about stretching. There are many instances where you have a nagging hip or nagging shoulder pain. You can stretch it all you want, but your body is crying out for strength. Let’s break it down a bit more.
“Not every nagging pain can be resolved with stretching. Sometimes your body is crying out for strength”, Trainer Cheryl Coppa
What is the difference?
Stretching improves flexibility. Mobility is a combination of flexibility and strength. Now when I say strength, I don’t mean weight lifting exercises, more like micro movement exercises. This is important because a lot of aches and pains come from a lack of strength, not always because you need to stretch. So if we can pair them together, you really can’t go wrong.
Stretching and mobility training are like a well-tuned orchestra playing a symphony. Stretching provides the individual instruments (muscles) with the flexibility they need to reach their full range of notes, while the mobility training acts as the conductor, guiding each instrument in harmony to create a beautiful and fluid performance. Just as the orchestra's success depends on both the instruments’ flexibility and the conductor's guidance, our body’s overall well-being benefits when we combine stretching and mobility exercises for a harmonious, and functional movement symphony.
Let’s start from the bottom up! I'm going to keep it easy so everyone can do this!
Start by warming up in any kind of way. Step side to side or a little jog. The warmer the muscles, the better and easier they will respond to the stretches.
1. Calf Stretch; Stretching the calf muscles can help with tension in the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Stretching this area is going to increase blood flow, which will also help with the range of motion in your ankles. Elevate the ball of your foot on a thick book or a yoga block. Make sure you are in neutral alignment. Breathe. To take this stretch deeper step the other foot forward. Make sure to do both sides for about 30 seconds each.
2. Hamstring Stretch; is very beneficial to stretch the big muscle of the back of the legs. These are the muscles that get tight when sitting too long. When the hamstrings get tight, it does pull the pelvis out of alignment and the chain of pains continues as one tight muscle pulls on another. There are many great hamstring exercises, I like this one as you can rotate through to feel best where you need it most. Just elevate your foot on a chair or a couch, keep your back long and straight, and hinge forward. You can rotate a little to find where you need the stretch the most, make sure to do both sides.
3. Hips: Hands down my favorite stretch. I do this stretch a few times a day. It’s a very easy one to do since you can do it standing, sitting, or lying down. You can hold it or move through it. I would suggest moving through it first, might as well get some mobility and flexibility work in there before you go into the hold. This way your body will be warmer and you will get more out of the stretch this way. Cross your leg over so your ankle is resting above the opposite knee, sit back and stand up, sit back and stand back up (see video if needed). Do this for about a minute and then hold at the bottom for about 30 seconds.
4. Hip Mobility Movement; Get a little of that micro strength in, while we are here. Sit on your sit bones, keep your back nice and tall and long. Feet are pretty far away from your hips and just drop your knees side to side.
Watch here to follow along with this short Lower Body Stretch & Mobility Session:
5. Another Common Complaint is Shoulders.
Again, mobility is probably a big reason you might experience shoulder discomfort and pain. Let me show you a stretch and mobility movement for your shoulders:
Grab a yoga block or anything that you can reach as you play 'catch' behind you. You can use anything.
Using yoga blocks or elevating on a chair or couch, have your forearms elevated, feet together, knees wide, sit back easy, and breathe.
Enjoy these feel-good movements to keep your body functional and pain-free. At Ola Ka Ola we have an on-demand library of training just like this you can enjoy at any time. There are also weekly LIVE sessions that we dedicate just to stretching and mobility.
Your symphony awaits.
About Cheryl Coppa
✔️ A certified Core Confidence Specialist (Core and Pelvic Floor retraining)
✔️ A certified Personal Trainer specializing in women's fitness over 40
✔️ Low-Pressure Fitness / Hypopressive certified by creator Dr. Tamara Rial
✔️ Pre/postnatal corrective exercise specialist
✔️Instructor of the Pelvic Floor Health program, Ola Ka Ola
✔️ 40 years young, wife & mother of 3