By Dawn Clements and Miguel J. Ortiz, CPT
We are a society of sitters, texters, and commuters who pack our days with activities. This is why some of the most popular and requested classes at gyms and spas now are stretching classes.
Dawn Clements, CEO of LiLiFu and inventor of the Fit Buddy fitness tool, along with Miguel Ortiz, personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness in Sandy Springs, share five simple methods to soothe aches and pains in common parts of the body in under 10 minutes.
1. Thoracic Spine
Lie on the floor with a foam roller behind the upper back. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck. Raise hips off the floor and slowly roll back and forth to find the tender spot, (knots or adhesions). Hold for 30-90 seconds. Use your hip height to adjust angles and tension. Do NOT roll over the lower back while the core is engaged and do NOT roll over your cervical spine! By keeping your elbows wide, you might also find that this helps to lightly stretch the chest as well. With your elbows wide, you will mainly be targeting the scapula/shoulder blades, when you bring your elbows together, you will be targeting your rhomboids (muscles between your spine and shoulder blade).
While lying on your back, place the more rounded or narrow end of the Fit Buddy underneath your shoulder blade/upper, mid and lower trapezius. Moving horizontally or straight up and down will work just fine as you discover different positions may target unique areas and adhesions specific to you, so do what’s comfortable and efficient. Keep your feet flat on the floor to help raise your hips if more pressure is needed or to target a different position. You can have an arm extended above your head and an arm brought across the chest. Both are used to manipulate the shoulder blade and allow you to target slightly different muscle groups. You don’t want to start in these positions, as that might be a little advanced. Take your time and slowly move your arm in one direction at least three times before adjusting/changing direction.
3. Quadratus Lumborum/Lower Back
Lie completely on the floor or a mat with your feet flat. Lift your hips high enough off the floor for you to place a small ball, such as a lacrosse ball, where the small of your lower back is. Be mindful to not put direct pressure on your hip bone and spine, as you want to target your lower back or quadratus lumborum. Once you find the right spot, slowly begin to place more pressure on whichever side the ball is on so that you don’t lose your balance and you can begin to bend your knee high enough to grab. While you’re getting comfortable, be sure to allow your head to rest by placing it on the floor. Take slow and moderate breaths. Increase breath length the longer you’re in the position.
Begin by lying completely on your stomach. In this picture, Miguel is using a bigger Hypersphere ball. However, depending on how tight you are or if you need less pressure, a smaller ball might help. The placement of the ball should be about 3-4 inches away from your belly button. You’re looking for the space between your ribs and hip. Miguel is also using the same side arm to create more pressure by lifting himself up. This usually isn’t recommended, so only perform this if capable and if more pressure is needed. There are different techniques and angles that you will be able to reach by bending or straightening the same or opposite side leg.
5. Bottom of the Feet
For anyone with foot pain, this is arguably the most underutilized area of stretching. Most knee and hip pain starts from our feet because it’s our first place of contact with the ground. If you haven’t been taking care of your feet, then doing this move while sitting might be a good idea. Utilize the ends of the Fit Buddy as needed for pressure and height. In the photo, Miguel is standing up straight and the larger end is closer to his heel but you can also stretch your calf as well by leaning forward lightly. Stretching both the bottom of your feet and calves at the same time could be difficult, so slowly work your way into deeper stretches. The smaller end of the Fit Buddy might be easier around your toes and the balls of your feet but since the muscle around that area is slightly thinner consider the amount of pressure you are using.
Bonus: Breaking Down Cellulite
Women often develop cellulite, which is simply fat deposits pushing through the connective tissue beneath the skin, in their late 20s to early 30s. Fat build-up can occur all over the body but is mainly found in women around the buttocks and thighs. Fit Buddy can be used to break down cellulite. To target the lower body, hold Fit Buddy in a horizontal position and massage the quads. Next, massage the inner thighs, the outer thighs, and the area under the legs. Use for 10-15 minutes per leg. Utilizing the Fit Buddy appropriately can help tremendously with cellulite reduction as moving or pressing against the skin can help stimulate pressure receptors and lead to a series of bioelectric and biochemical events causing fat to be dispersed/released from the body through other metabolic pathways.