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Massage Today
December, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 12

Stretch Through the New Year

By Teresa M. Matthews, LMT, CPT

Have you ever started a workout program and then found something that got in the way? Or even reached your goal then quit the routine? This year is going to be different, and here is help for you to stick with your resolution.

Set goals: Start with a short term goal, meet it then reach for another goal.

Variety: Change your workouts. Begin with flexibility training, then incorporate strength, cardio and balance training.

Fun: If you are not enjoying your workout, you are more apt to quit. Have a great attitude and it will make a huge difference.

Balance: This is two-fold. Moderate workouts paired with healthy nutrition, and being able to stand on one foot.

Accountability: Find a workout partner who is motivated and has similar goals as you.

Discipline: Commit to your workouts, eat every three hours, and get an adequate amount of sleep.

Log: Keep a log of everything you eat, portion size and any physical exercise.

Visualize: Envision what you want to look and feel like five, 10 and 20 years from now.

The key to sticking with any program is to ask yourself: "Is fitness a lifelong commitment to improve my quality of life or just something I'll do for a short time?"

Flexibility Training

The easiest way to begin is with flexibility training. With stretching exercises in our routine, we will dramatically improve our performance in whatever else we do and can ease any muscular pain and tension. Most massage therapists are tight in their upper chest (pectoral region), hands, and posterior and anterior upper legs (hamstrings and quadriceps). We need to make sure we regularly open up these tight areas. Bringing ourselves back to balance will result in a body absent from pain or discomfort. Stretching the tight muscles will allow more circulation to the area and bring in more oxygenated blood. This creates healthier tissue, allowing us to optimally perform our daily tasks.

We know stretching improves flexibility and health of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Flexibility makes it easier to accomplish any task in our daily lives. Stretching and flexibility are critical to preventing injuries, especially as we perform our job. Overuse injuries, also known as repetitive stress injuries, occur in part because of lack of flexibility caused by tight muscles. Here are some benefits to stretching:

  • Improves flexibility and health of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Stimulates the circulation and drainage of lymph, which helps eliminate metabolic wastes.
  • Breaks down friction and gluing among fascial sheathes.
  • Separates fibrosis and breaks down adhesions that may result from trauma or inflammation.
  • Reduces muscle spasm.
  • Reduces the risk of muscle strain and tears.

With stretching and flexibility, massage therapists can perform with ease and sustain longer. By having a flexibility program incorporated into your day, performance is improved with reduced chance of injury. Muscle stiffness is reduced as excess toxin buildup is removed. Reduction in metabolic wastes allows muscles to rejuvenate quicker after intense work-outs or a really busy day at work. Healing is faster and stronger with facilitated stretching. The bottom line is that stretching and flexibility provide an increase in career spans and performance levels.

Facilitated stretching is an easy way to maintain or improve flexibility. The blend of stretching and hands-on range of motion therapy is amazingly effective in reducing scar tissue and adhesions to improve pain-free motion for our clients and ourselves.

4 Easy Flexibility Exercises

Here are some flexibility exercises you can routinely do through your day:

Stretch Through the New Year - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
Pec Stretch
Stretch Through the New Year - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
Hand Stretch
Stretch Through the New Year - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
Quadriceps Stretch
Stretch Through the New Year - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
Hamstring Stretch

Pec Stretch: Lace you fingers behind your back and inhale. Now as you slowly lift up, exhale.

Hand Stretch: Extend your arm out in front of you with your fingers up and inhale. Exhale as you put pressure on your fingers to extend and open your hand.

Quadriceps Stretch: Balance on your right foot, place your left foot in your left hand. As you exhale, bring your left heel to your left glute. Then do the opposite side.

Hamstring Stretch: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. You will exhale as you bring your chest toward your toes.

With this new year, let's visualize what we will commit for ourselves. We take care of others daily, so now is the time to start taking care of ourselves.

Teresa M. Matthews, fitness expert and world champion athlete, has 30 years experience in the fitness industry. She is the president and founder of Health, Wellness & Fitness Professionals, Inc. and is the owner of Arlington School of Massage and Personal Training in Jacksonville, Fla. She is a sports massage instructor for the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and was awarded the FSMTA 2009 Sports Massage Therapist of the Year award. Teresa travels the country teaching self care and wellness classes. Contact her by e-mail at with questions or comments.


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