Sure, you may be committed to cardio and HIIT sessions. But as Master SoulCycle Instructor Charlee Atkins explains to Us, stretching is just as, if not more, important for your health — especially during the stressful holiday season.
“Stretching is good because it feels good to feel good, period,” Atkins tells Us. “To take that one step further, physically stretching does all the things we’ve been told: it increases range of motion about the joints, increases blood flow, helps prevent injury and decreases muscle tension.”
To reap the benefits, the pro — who also founded a NYC fitness class called Le Stretch — prescribes 10 minutes a day minimum: “Get it in where you can fit it in,” she says. “I do five minutes every morning and five-plus minutes following my workouts. That’s an easy 10 minutes done every day.”
Atkins designed a 10-minute routine you can do to up your flexibility regardless of your level of activity — or daily schedule. “It’s this easy,” she says. “Pick three stretches and hold them for two minutes each. Find stretches that hit more than one muscle group — that way you get the biggest bang for your buck.” Her go-to routine targets the hips, shoulders and back:
First, do a low lunge with your right leg in front, knee bent at a 90 degree angle over your ankle. Your left leg will be behind you, knee on the ground. (Fold a blanket or towel and place it underneath if you have sensitive knees.) Hold for two minutes with your hands on your right upper leg. Switch so that your left leg is in front and hold for two minutes.
The second pose, called Thread the Needle, stretches the shoulders, upper arms and back. Start on all fours. Raise your right arm up to the sky and turn your head to look at it in the air. Next, “thread” that arm under your left arm so that your right shoulder and the right side of your face touches the ground. Hold for two minutes. Repeat with the left arm and hold for two minutes.
The final pose is called Puppy Pose. Starting on all fours, slide your hands out in front of you as your rear end stays in place, until your forehead or chin reaches the floor. You should feel the stretch in your upper back and shoulders. Hold for two minutes.
The leader of the celebrity-loved cycling workout often posts short stretch and strength sequences on her Instagram page. She notes that you can do the routine above even if you don’t have a 10-minute block of time. Simply break it up. “Do the legs in the morning, the shoulders at lunch and the back before you go to bed,” she says. “The hardest part about stretching is actually sitting yourself down to do it and holding it for the amount of time you should! I subscribe to the two-minute philosophy because we need to sit in the stretch long enough to send a message back to the brain to tell our body to let go.” She adds that holding for two minutes also allows the body “to learn the new position is a position your body can actually function in.”
You certainly won’t regret the 10 minutes spent. “Mentally, stretching can calm you down, decrease your stress levels and reinvigorate and energize you,” says the Playbook trainer. “I bet once you start with the stretch, it’s going to be hard not to finish because it feels so good. The hardest part is getting started!”
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