Freyja Spaven, Author at Float Fitness

Author: Freyja Spaven

How To Release Tight Hip Flexors Using AntiGravity® Fitness

How To Finally Release Tight Hip Flexors With AntiGravity® Fitness

 

There’s no side-stepping or sneaking around it..

You may even avoid it and say “I’ll do it next next time.”antigravity fitness dew drop

Well I’m here to tell it to you there’s no way to skimp here –

You’ve just got to do it…

Yep…stretching after exercise is a complicated area of science.

There is a big debate around stretching and it’s benefits

but I’m a firm believer in a holistic approach to an active and healthy lifestyle.

I’ve seen first hand how a better range of motion in a joint can help everyday life, and of course I’m not talking about being able to do the splits as a party trick.

In fact before incorporating flexibility routines into my training schedule, I couldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor for longer than a few seconds.

It was so painful!

But enough about me…let’s talk about the fact that:

Flexibility and stretching affects your health in a huge way.

But WHY? And what part does a flexibility routine have to play in having a greater quality of life?

That’s the question I’d like to help answer today. It’s all about the context. ‘Stretching’ is as loose of a term as ‘healthy eating.’ What it means to one person is completely different to another.

Today, I’m going to share some everyday movements you can incorporate into your day

and how a supportive device like an AntiGravity Hammock can help you get a great deal of bang per stretch.

Find out why we have ‘niggles’ and how the can be ironed out with a little time – especially in your hips, shoulders and back.

As promised, find out how just a couple of moves per day can target large muscle groups to allow for greater mobility and flexibility.

That means better performance in life and in your training shoes! Lets jump in and find out all about:

The Big Muscle Groups

When large groups of muscles don’t work properly i.e are restricted by lack of flexibility, it can cause injuries and a reduced range of motion (a measurement of movement around a joint.) 

This basically means a hearty list of problems and ultimately could mean you saying good-bye to the marathon dreams.

And you have worked so hard, so it’s the least thing we want!

As an AntiGravity® instructor it’s my job to help people get a greater quality of life through movement.

One of the ways I like to help is to ask how everyone is feeling, and if anyone is particularly ‘sticky’.

And I usually get a resounding “yes!”

It’s usually these three main culprits:

  • In my hips!”
  • In my back and neck!”
  • In my knees!”

As we warm up, with a few clicks and pops later, I see relieved faces looking at me, smiling as if they have just un-clogged their bodies.

If you are nodding your head in agreement, then read on to see how just a few gentle to moderate stretches a day could help relieve this tension, and how in our AntiGravity® Hammock we can take these stretches to another level.

With that said, lets take a closer look at our hips first and what part they play in our everyday lives.

Hip Flexibility And The Part It Plays In Our Exercise And Daily Life

 

We hear it so often that the hips are the most important group of muscles in the human body.

And they are probably right!

In particular the hip flexors and the hip extensors. You will hear us focus on them a lot during class, and for good reason!

Very basically, the hip flexors pull the hips down, whilst the extensors pull the back up, working against each other keeping us in an upright position. 

 Any time we lunge, bend forwards or backwards we are using our hips as a hinge.

Do you have a tight lower back ? Or feel a shooting pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time?

It could be to do with tight hips. When hip flexors get tight, the hip bones become constantly pulled down creating an unnatural curve in the lower back.

This puts pressure on the spine and can causes problems further down the legs in the knees and ankles.

So runners listen up!

Tightness in the hips ie.constriction will limit the range of motion and the flow of energy.

So when we run, either on the pitch or training for running, tight hips can be a root cause of popular niggling injuries such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Knee and ankle pain

The good news is, there are many ways to keep your hips healthy and happy. It could be as simple as implementing a few hip stretches into your weekly plan.

Here’s one hip stretch that is a beautiful hip opener – in yoga it is called pigeon pose. So I will refer to it as such from now.

antigravity fitness

This is a great stretch to be done after exercise to open the hips to prevent injury, say after a long run.

It’s a great way to target individual hip muscles softening stiffness and tension held in the hip area.

We often feel great relief after stretching the hips – as an exercise, feel how tight you are at the end of your run before you stretch, and how light and free you feel afterwards.

It’s as theraputic as it is lengthening for the hips, back, glutes and biceps.

Having a tight knee and a tight lower back could be barriers to comfort in this position.

When we use a hammock to support our leg, gravity gently encourages the knee to open releasing the muscles in the pelvis. The weight of the leg gently stretches the hip-flexor (the big muscles at the front of the pelvis – and believe us it feels like bliss!

 

antigravity fitness helps with piriformis release

How Even Gentle Exercise Can Strengthen Your Back

Your back is another large and important cluster of ligaments, muscles and tendons that we need to take care of.

One of the major functions of the back muscles is protecting our spine. Now the body does a great job at this.

Sometimes too much of a good job! If our brains sense the spine is in danger, (i.e squished from sitting all day) our muscles will lock and tighten creating painful muscle spasms and inflammation.

Our spine is of course a huge topic we will save for another day. But what we can do today to keep our spine healthy is to keep the spine mobile and capable of day-to-day movement.

These are some common things we hear at Float Fitness, and I can guarantee that we can all relate to at least one of the following:

  • I wake up and I am stiff in my back-I even find it hard to pick something up!”
  • I drive all day and my lower back just cramps up when I sit for long periods of time”
  • I work in an office and have such tight shoulders and neck – now I am getting migraines”
  • I think I over-did my workout – I can hardly walk!”

We may be able to help with these common complaints.(depending on if there is any complication with injury)

I’m not saying that this next stretch is a miracle cure by any means.

However, you may be surprised how implementing a few warm-up stretches can help you ‘free up’ your back allowing for a greater range of motion, and  a pain-free day.

One of these great stretches is the cat/cow stretch.

Cow pose Cat pose

The cat/cow stretch is a lovely freeing movement to prepare the body for exercise – it’s a dynamic stretch best performed before you workout.

Or first thing in the morning before you go to work, even try it in the middle of the day if you can find a quiet spot!

Just a couple of times over the course of the day can be enough to mobilise the spine enough to free tight muscles in the shoulders and middle back.

Breath as you perform this – a long inhale through the nose as you curl into cat, and a long exhale through the mouth as you release into cow.

However, weak wrists and sore knees from running can be barriers to this pose.

Let’s take a look at a cat/cow pose in the hammock. Here, the upper body is nicely supported by the hammock leaving no weight driving down the wrists.

Right Angle Pose using an Antigravity hammock Cat Poase using an antigravity hammock

Why Our Knees Need A Little Love And Attention

If there’s a place in the body that I hear the most complaints about it’s our knees.

It’s no surprise as they have a lot of hats to wear!

Running, crouching, bending and straightening the legs…so many jobs for such a small joint.

Take walking up the stairs for example. Every step we take upwards the pressure across the knee is four times the weight of the body! So again no surprise that a small tweak could land in surgery.

In fact, in 2013-2014 alone 11,891 kiwis had knee surgery on ACC. Now that’s a good enough reason to take care of this small but terribly important joint.

Some of the most common complaints I hear from my students are: (let’s see if any of these ring true for you too)

  • I had knee surgery a couple of years ago and still get pain from time to time”
  • In netball last week I over-stepped and tweaked my knee”
  • Marathon training took it’s toll this week – my knees ache to the bone!”

The good news is that just a little maintenance can keep our knees healthy and happy.

A combination of strength exercises and stretches will help keep the knee joint healthy and supple.

So how I take care of my students with knee pain is try to get the best alignment possible so the muscles surrounding the joint get the safest workout.

Here is one exercise that is great for strengthening the muscles around the knee – that’s right- the good old lunge.

A great little exercise that can be performed any-where and everywhere!

A Gentle Lunge

Let’s take a look at a lunge in the hammock:

A gentle lunge in teh antigravity hammock

The aim of having the hammock is to provide a supported stretch for the groups of muscles that make the knee strong and supple.

Great!

So now you have a couple of common stretches and how we have taken these to our AntiGravity® hammocks.

AntiGravity® Fitness can easily slot in with your fitness goals and can provide a fun and engaging way to get your weekly flexibility training.

We have a large range of static and dynamic stretches all providing length and strength in some of the largest muscle groups in our bodies.In fact, there are over 1000 variations of movements in the AntiGravity® hammock.

To say thanks for reading, we’d love to be able to give you an exclusive offer that will help you in our AntiGravity® journey.

Health and Happiness,

Freyja at Float Fitness

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How To Use A Flexibility Routine To Smash Through Your Performance Barriers

antigravity new zealandStretching before and after exercise can and will take your workout routine to the next level…but only when done right!

But what is the right way?

And what’s the difference between static stretching and dynamic stretching?

We do a little calf stretch here, and the one where you hold your elbow across our body.

(What muscle’s that one stretching again?)

Now all of us have heard lots about the importance of grabbing some exercise – it makes us feel great.

But a lot of us do too, much too soon:

  • We get injured
  • We burn out
  • And we end up waiting weeks to exercise again

What if by adding a simple 5 minute process to our workouts we could stop this from happening..?

Today I will show you the benefits of applying just a few simple steps to your workout, and how we can amp up your performance with just a few minutes before and after.

We will also cover the differences between these exercises on the floor or in an Antigravity® hammock, including which sports these are PERFECT for…

 

 

Struggling With Static Stretch Ideas? Try THIS GUIDE For How To Do A Perfect Down Dog

 

 

 Get Ship Shape For Summer: Simple Stretches To Amp Your Performance, Speed Up Recovery And Rocket Blast Your Routines

Whether you are a runner, a surfer, a rock climber or netball player or simply just starting out in your fitness journey…

If you’re anything like me you have your plan mapped out in your head or on paper of up-and-coming training and “Summer goals”

You’re focused on:

  • the marathon
  • your target weight or
  • the road-trips to days on the waves

But sometimes we can over-look how we are going to help our body recover as we push through and strive for the next level.

Flexibility and stretching is vital to promote proper recover and prevent injury.

So let’s dive in and get you performing at your peak! You may just learn something new as we explore our…

…Step #1: Flexibility Training And Fitness Goals

From personal experience I know that even a small amount of stretching can improve muscle condition and flexibility leading to better performance in life and on the track.

Even a little a day results in more efficient muscle contraction and a greater range of motion. But what does this mean for our exercise goals?

I’d love to share my experience with you to help take your health and fitness to the next level.

antigravity fitness new zealandWhy Does It Matter To Me?

We see it all too often that a motivated individual with the best intentions of reaching their goals falls short due to injury. We can’t always prevent injuries, but we can do our best to make sure we are training safely.

When we start a new training routine our body is under stress. As we ask more of our body (more weight, longer training)  we begin to adapt by growing stronger.

If you don’t exercise often, it could mean that your muscles are de-conditioned, meaning they could need a helping hand to stay strong.

De-conditioned muscles can mean a lot of things, mainly that muscle fibers don’t contract as efficiently as someone who trains regularly.

This can lead to muscular imbalances in turn leading to injury, in turn saying “bye” to the marathon dreams.

The good news is that you can actively avoid injury by incorporating stretching into your workout and as rehabilitation from your usual training regime.

No matter your athletic ability – pro or just starting out – a good flexibility routine can bring help to bring you closer to your fitness goals.

How often and the methods you use to stretch are affected by what you’d like to achieve. If you are looking at stretching to reach your fitness goals faster, this is the article for you.

Please Note : Stretching for injury rehabilitation is very different, and we advise if you have an injury to always see a health professional.

Let’s look at some stretches you can implement into your own exercise routine.

Firstly though, let’s look at why stretching is key to maintaining a healthy body and where it can fit in with your overall fitness goals.

stretching for runningFlexibility and where it fits into your fitness goals

There are three main components of fitness:

  • Cardiovascular training (keeping the heart beating at a quicker pace for an extended amount of time) is vital for your heart and lung health, keeping them strong and efficiently
  • Strength training is important for good posture and physical efficiency
  • Flexibility training is key to peak performance, posture and physical efficiency

Simply put, optimum fitness can’t be achieved unless there is balance between the three components.

For Example:

If a marathon runner chose to neglect strength training, muscular imbalances in the core and legs could cause injury.

The same if a weight lifter only focused on strength training, they would quickly find they built a body with a reduced range of motion.

From personal experience, I know that a flexibility routine can help take your health and fitness to the next level.

Step 2# – Know Why You Need To Incorporate Flexibility Stretches To Your Weekly Schedule ASAP

So, we know flexibility training is important, so lets look at some benefits of stretching in detail.

In a health and fitness context, stretching is the relaxation and lengthening of a muscle. We can use this relaxation reflex to improve flexibility in a careful and controlled way.

antigravity yoga mount maungnauiThis gentle lengthening brings out responses in the body including:

  • A greater range of motion and injury prevention
  • Improved posture
  • Increasing blood flow moving toxins from the joint
  • Burns calories
  • Reduces Muscle soreness
  • Aids in mental and physical relaxation

Read on to look at these in more detail…

A Greater Range Of Motion

When stretching, all the muscles, tendons and connective tissue are lengthened. Tight muscles are much more susceptible to to muscle strain putting you out of action!

Tight muscles can also lead to imbalances in the body’s alignment resulting in muscle strain.

Better Posture

Poor posture is caused by muscular imbalances and can really prevent your body working at optimal levels. If you sit at a desk, drive, even stand all day it is especially important to make sure your workout routine is balanced with a flexibility program that reduces these imbalances.

Increasing blood flow moving toxins from the joint

As you stretch, you encourage blood flow around the joint bringing vital nutrients to the muscle and tendon structures which may contribute to better function and elasticity.

As blood flow increases, your body can draw away toxins caused by inflammation and fatigue.

Burns Calories

Yes you can burn calories from stretching! Especially if you integrate one or two hour long sessions into your weekly routine.

Reduces Muscle Soreness from Exercise

Effective post workout stretching relieves the muscles you just worked. Blood flow and nutrient flow is increased reducing the effects of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)

Aids in Mental and Physical relaxation

Some stretching routines promote deep and effective breathing which helps clear the mind of negative thoughts. Moving the diaphragm during breath can clear stress hormones from the blood bringing an overall feeling of calm. Dr. Libby Weaver, renowned speaker, author and nutritionist supports this theory, and recommends diaphragmatic breathing as an important tool in living a stress-free life.

dr libby

“Long, slow belly breathing expands the muscles in your diaphragm, expanding the lung’s air pockets, stimulating our relaxation response.”

Dr. Libby Weaver

(BHSc (N&D) (Hons) PhD)

Step #3 – Understand the Different Types of Stretching And When To Use Them In Your Routine

Great, so now we understand the benefits!

To begin to understand how and why we stretch lets look at the two different types of stretches and where they fit into your workout.

I’m not saying the stretch in the hammock will replace the stretch on the floor. In fact, they compliment each other !

Your body remembers what correct alignment feels like in the the hammock, than takes it to your daily life outside the hammock.

So let’s look at the two basic types of stretching; static and dynamic.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a controlled movement that takes you gently to the limits of your range of motion.

These are best performed at the beginning of your workout.

Say you are training for a marathon. You may stop after 3 minutes of gentle jogging and perform some slow lunges and hip circles to encourage blood flow and relax the muscles before you take on the bulk of your run.

Here is an example of a dynamic stretch you can do to warm up the hips before you start your exercise :

antigravity fitness nz

Standing hip rotations are a great example of a dynamic stretch.

Follow these directions for proper execution:

  • Stand tall with the feet just wider than hip distance apart
  • Rest hands on hips
  • Put a slight bend in the knees
  • Draw small circles with your hips, first clock-wise, then counter clockwise
  • Don’t take the hips wider than the feet.

Now let’s check out the this movement in the AntiGravity® Hammock – a supportive device that allows our hips to have a wider circle of movement.

antigravity fitness nz

As the hammock takes the weight of the upper body, the hips can be allowed to circle wider without being under compression. It’s a gyroscopic movement that uses the hip’s full range of motion to gently warm up and release our middle body.

Static Stretching

This is a slow, gradual and controlled stretch performed AFTER exercise (don’t use this before warming up or before a strength routine as it could lead to injury and reduced performance)

Static stretching is excellent for lengthening muscles. Say if you are working towards the splits a controlled warm up, then time spent with static stretches will get you there quite quickly!

Take time at the end of training to wind down and stretch will quieten your heart beat and slow your mind – feel a huge sense of calm wash over you as all the feel-good hormones released from exercise come into play.

It’s a great place to take a bit of ‘me’ time!

Take your time and breath into stretches to get more length.

Here’s an example of a down dog, a great static stretch that lengthens the lower back and hamstrings, 2 key groups of muscles that can suffer from lack of stretching post – exercise.

Downward Facing Dog

An incredible all-body stretch for gentle static stretch.

(Please avoid down dog if you have any of the following: Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Pregnancy, High Blood Pressure)

downwards facing dog

How to:

  • Come down onto your mat on all fours, shoulders above wrists and hips in line with the knees.
  • Wrist creases are parallel to the mat and fingers are wide and pointing forwards
  • Tuck the toes and bring the bottom to the heels
  • Lift the hips into a downwards facing dog, keeping knees bent
  • Slowly pedal out the feet bringing the right heel down, then the left
  • Back stays straight, so if  the heels don’t reach the floor it’s okay! Work on stretching out the back
  • Roll the upper arms out freeing the neck and the jaw
  • Don’t forget to breath long and slow breaths

To take a break bend the knees – aim for 3 rounds of a few breaths each.

Downwards facing dog in the AntiGravity® hammock

The hammock almost acts like our own personal assistant, gently guiding the hips up and straightening the back.

The weight of the legs allows the backs of the legs to straighten minus pressure in the knees.

The hammock sits just under our hip points giving a lovely massage to our hip-flexors.

downwards facing dog

When should I stretch?

As a loose and general rule of thumb, dynamic stretches precede exercise and static stretches.

So basically stretching is best done after a warm-up.

Do you wake up stiff? A bit creaky?

Try leaping out of bed, doing dynamic stretching, then doing some gentle static stretches.

It will make a huge difference to your day and how you move for the rest of the morning.

In fact in an AntiGravity® class, we always begin with a variety of specific stretches and poses that flow together ensuring constant movement.

How long should I stretch for?

Ideally every day! (of course if you have any injuries please follow the advice of your health professional)

Before your workout, try dynamic stretches. A few rounds of 10 on each side should warm up the body nicely.

After working out, try holding a static the stretch 30-60 seconds. Don’t forget to breath!

(More on this in our next blog post )

What should it feel like?

Any stretch could feel uncomfortable at first. Try to stay though even if its just for a few seconds and you will start to feel a release.

Breath calmly and regularly through your nose and relax to the point of mild discomfort. Then you know you are getting a good stretch and reaping all the benefits we highlighted earlier!

Pain is never good; a stretch is often a balance between effort and relaxation.

Always be sure to progress slowly. If at any point you feel distress or pain, stop and seek medical advice.

What  Next?

So now we know all the benefits of stretching and why adding a routine to your workout can bring your workout and performance to the next level!

We have learned some stretches we can do in the hammock and some stretches you can add to your workout to increase performance.

What stretches do you do to warm up and cool down before you train?

Let us know what your thoughts are, and if you have any questions on stretching and why it’s important, ask away!

Health and Happiness,

Freyja

 

This article was scientifically researched from various sources.

Written by Freyja from Float Fitness

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