We get it – stretch breaks are important. If you work at a desk, use the Internet, and have a neck (or any combination of the three), you know this.
But…do you DO it?
It’s not easy to tear yourself away from the screen. You can try setting an hourly reminder, creating office-wide stretch parties, or inventing some trigger that happens at regular intervals. (Every time you get a spam email, uou stretch?)
But sometimes, you’re smack in the middle of step 57 of a website update (out of 60!) Sometimes, you’re writing a blog post about stretching, and you’re in the zone, man. Other times, you simply mute the reminder and promise to stretch “later.” (Only then, you never do.)
And all that is only if you have the reminders in place, which most of us don’t.
I can’t help with your deadlines, or the ergonomics of your office plan. I can’t do anything about the 6,017 emails you get in an hour, or the fact that all of them expect an immediate reply.
What I can do, is simplify the stretching part. All you REALLY need, is four stretches. Do them in the morning and/or at the end of the day. Do them before and after lunch. Do them whenever you think about it, and that will be better than not doing them at all.
#1: Neck release
You can stay seated for this one – but sit on the edge of your chair and make yourself really tall. Lengthen your spine and roll your shoulders forward and back a few times, letting them relax and settle. Imagine a string pulling the crown of your head toward the sky. Be careful not to arch your back here; just sit up straight.
Get as long as you can in your neck, then drop your right ear to your right shoulder. DON’T SHRUG THAT SHOULDER – I know you want to! Let the left side of your neck relax with every breath. To intensify, take your right hand to your head and gently pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Slowly release, shake it out, and repeat on the other side.
After you’ve done both sides, clasp your hands behind your head, elbows out. RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS. Press the back of your head into your hands and hold gently for a few seconds. Release and repeat. (Oh, and stop shrugging your shoulders!)
#2: The hip flexor stretch
Stand in a lunge position with your hands on your hips. Your front knee should be directly over the ankle, and your back knee should drop straight down from the hip. Bend or straighten the back leg to whatever degree is comfortable – but the leg itself should be relaxed. Most of your body weight is resting in your front foot.
Square your hips up to face front. Squeeze your rear butt cheek and scoop your tailbone forward (like a dog, tucking its tail between its legs). You should feel a stretch in the front of that hip. To intensify, deepen your lunge, raise your arms overhead, and lean to the side opposite the stretching side.
Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
#3: Shoulder squeeze
Stand tall, firmly planting your feet at hip distance. Tuck your tailbone and tighten your core. Clasp your hands behind you, resting on your bum. Squeeze the shoulder blades back towards each other, taking care not to arch your back.
From here, you can play around with some neck stretches, bending side to side, or any other movements that feel good. Or, you can just chill. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
#4: Side bend
Stand tall, firmly planting your feet at hip distance, arms at your sides. Turn your palms to face front and raise your arms in a wide arc, over your head. Clasp hands overhead, releasing just the index fingers. (If this hurts your shoulders or neck, just grab opposite elbows overhead.)
Take a minute to draw your core in and make sure you’re not arching your back. Take a deep breath in, growing long and tall, then exhale and lean over to the right, creating a long, curved shape – like a banana. Inhale and return to center, then exhale and lean to the left. Repeat two or three times, holding the last stretches for 30-45 seconds each.
That’s it! Add these four stretches to your daily life and I promise you’ll feel like you did as a teenager – before we had all these fancy computers 😉