Fit for Life

PHOTOS: Stretch it out to help decrease daily pain in the body

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By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury

Many people experience pain in the body on a regular basis whether it’s in the back, neck, shoulders, knees or other areas. Pain is caused by a variety of different reasons such as tension, stress, overuse, injuries or bad posture.

Kyle Hartson is strength coach at the Maxout Strength Studio in Limerick. He teaches a dynamic stretching class which he says incorporates active movements so people build muscle and gain strength while also stretching the muscles.

“So you can almost get an exercise … as well as getting a stretch in dynamic stretching,” he said.

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This movement takes the classic fly opener stretch and includes a hamstring, glute and lower back stretch as well. Do the classic fly stretch and pull the feet away from the body until you have to reach out to grab them. While keeping the chin up, grab your feet and pull the chest towards the heels of the feet. Try your best not to lower the head to increase the lengthening of the glutes and hamstrings. This will also help to prevent lower back strain. This movement is great for the lower back as well as hamstring and glute pain. 

Hartson, 37, has been an athlete all his life. He was a semi-professional snowboarder for four years. He played soccer in school and did rowing. He has been skateboarding since he was six years old. Hartson said he did a lot of impact sports that involved very jarring movements which led to several injuries. He’s had four knee surgeries, two shoulder surgeries and seven concussions. Hartson said after his surgeries, he couldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor (similar as to the Lotus position) and was having a hard time getting off the ground without pain.

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For this stretch, reach one of your arms straight out in front of you and then use the opposite hand to pull the arm horizontal across the chest. While doing the stretch, make sure to breathe deep while slowly increasing the pull across the chest. This movement is a great shoulder and rotator stretch. It helps to open up the shoulder, scapula (shoulder blade) and latissimus (muscles in the back). Hartson said, “This is a great stretch because of how much our culture and work-related positioning has us hunched over our computers and cramped up on our cellphones.”

Hartson’s wife encouraged him to give yoga a try and he was surprised to feel sore after the first class.

“For me knowing that I was sore means my body was doing something that it wasn’t used to doing but needed to do,” he said.

Once Hartson started doing stretching movements on a regular basis, his aches and pains began to fade away.

“I was able to reach my toes and then I was able to put my palms on the ground. Then a couple months later, I was able to do a split at 35 years old,” he said.

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For this stretch, stand up straight at first. Then bend over at the hips and let the arms hang. “This is a great, simple exercise and stretch to release pressure in the lower back while engaging and building the hamstring, glute and lower back muscles,” Hartson said. While doing the stretch, you want to roll up and down slowly so that you’re stacking each vertebrae on top of each other one at a time. Go up and down in this movement about 10 times while remaining in a hanging position for at least three to five breathes every time. Hartson said the movement is a great stretch for the morning because it helps with proper blood flow.

Hartson hasn’t had any other injuries since he started stretching on a regular basis. In his dynamic stretching class, Hartson works with individuals that had injuries similar to his or even worse. He also works with people that just want to feel better on a daily basis after experiencing regular pain in the back, hips, joints or areas of the body.

Hartson said pain in these areas are extremely common especially when considering that many people spend long periods of time sitting down hunched over a screen. He said this puts the body in an unnatural position which can lead to regular pain.

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For this stretch, lye your back on a hard surface which helps straighten out the spine. While lying on the smooth surface, raise each leg individually with the arms and the rest of the body still grounded. This engages the abdominal muscles, lower back muscles and the hip flexors. While the leg is raises, lift the head and lower it back down numerous times. This will help stretch the spine and help to release lower back pain.

“It’s amazing how much less pain you can have if you just move,” Hartson said.

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For this stretch, stand up straight then reach back over the head while taking deep breathes in and out. “Basically, take the biggest morning wake-up stretch you can but hold it on the farthest part of the out for three to five breathes. I call these Good mornings!” Hartson said. This movement is great for stretching the shoulders, abdominal section and hip flexors. The movement along with deep breathes helps with circulation and spinal alignments as well as improve mobility in the chest and shoulder area.

For more about Maxout Strength Studio or the dynamic stretching class, contact Hartson at 610-948-5959 or email him at khartsonw@maxoutcorp.com. Visit the Maxout Strength studio website at www.maxoutstudio.com.

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