Your physical fitness is as much about how to relax the muscles as it is to work them. If your muscles are strained or tense, this can cause you to feel tired an unable to perform even simple tasks. Additionally, you may experience, aches and pains, tension headaches, swelling etc. that only further inhibit your ability to be physically fit.
As such, we dedicate this months’ fitness feature to helping you train your muscles to relax.
A cool down is essential after any workout. It helps to lengthen the muscles, encourage a healthy heart, helps blood flow and shift those toxins you release during exercise.
It doesn’t need to be extensive either. It can be as simple as coordinated stretches that cover large body groups and can be completed within 5-7 minutes.
Include the following in your routine:
- Reach for your toes from a standing or position on the floor
- Reach to the ceiling to stretch your core
- Stretch your arms across your body, out in front and behind you- which will also stretch your chest
- Stretch your head/neck by tilting your head to the side and holding with the hand on the same side for a deeper stretch- do this both sides. Also allow your chin to drop to your chest to stretch your neck and muscles at the top of your spine.
Hot baths are a proven technique to help relieve aches, pains and help the muscles to relax. Top your bath with Epsom/Magnesium salts too. The magnesium will be absorbed into your body to help aid detoxification and most importantly, magnesium is essential for regulating muscle and nerve function. So, if you regularly suffer with tight muscles, regular salt baths can be really effective. In addition, it’ll help with heart health and if you have regular stomach problems, it’ll help alleviate the acid build up. All round, it’s a great idea to hop in the tub.
Massage is another very effective technique for working on tense muscles, but you don’t need to necessarily see a masseuse after each workout. Try our tips out instead:
Following your session and hot shower, rub your hands together to warm them up and apply firm pressure over the affected area in an upwards motion. The friction will help to warm the muscles up further and help encourage them to relax. You could also do this when applying your body lotion and it’ll also work your lotion deeper into the skin to give you longer lasting hydration.
If you’ve a localised knot, place a tennis ball onto the affected area and apply pressure to it by resting against a firm surface such as a wall or the floor. The pressure should help to alleviate a stuck knot but it if isn’t shifting, maintaining the pressure, allow the ball to move along the muscle to help push it out.
If you have a stressful lifestyle, it’s advisable to get into a good habit of giving yourself time to wind down at the end of the day. It’ll help give your body and mind a chance to settle down before sleep to give you the best rest possible and the best start the next day.
Body scans are an effective way to do this. It entails resting in a peaceful space for 10-20 minutes and following an instructional guide that encourages you to conduct breathing exercises and a muscle relaxation technique. It can be a difficult technique to follow initially but it is very beneficial, particularly if followed daily. There are a couple of apps out there you can use or alternatively, download an instructional guide from Amazon or iTunes.
If you find yourself in the same position for a prolonged period of time, e.g. sleeping, watching TV/going to the cinema, working at a desk, working at till etc. getting into the habit of stretching when you take a break, wake up or even before you go to bed, can be a really effective way to help your body move and shift stagnentation. It’ll even help prevent muscle tension.
Follow our cool down guide which can be just as applicable here or download an app such as Sworkit which has Pilates, Yoga and stretching routines ready for you to try and can complete in as little as 2 minutes.