The question: I travel a lot and I am always stiff from the plane ride. What our some effective stretches I can do while on a cramped plane?
The answer: I empathize. I'm almost six feet tall. When I fly I feel like I am squished in a suitcase the entire time.
Try doing the routine below once per hour. When I remember to do it, I feel noticeably better.
1. Tall sitting: Sit up tall by imagining a piece of string is pulling your head up to the ceiling. Draw your shoulders back (crack an imaginary walnut in between your shoulder blades) while simultaneously tucking your chin so that you give yourself a double chin. Hold this position for five seconds. Relax, then repeat five times.
2. Shoulder rolls: In the above tall position, roll your shoulders backward then forward 10 times.
3. Gentle rotations: In the above tall position, turn your head and chest gently to the right. To deepen the stretch, use your left hand to pull slightly on your right knee. Hold for 15 seconds. Then repeat, rotating to the left.
4. Armrest pulls: Reach your right arm to the left corner of the seat in front of you. Round your back slightly, feel a stretch up your right arm and through the right side of your back. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides.
5. Ankle circles: Promote blood flow to your lower body with ankle rotations. Lift your right foot off of the floor and rotate your right ankle clockwise and then counter-clockwise 10 times. Switch and repeat with your left ankle.
Trainer's tip: I like to stretch my legs when I am standing waiting for the bathroom. Try a quad stretch: Stand on your left leg. Grab your right ankle and pull it toward your bum. Engage your abs and push the right hip forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. If you don't mind looking silly – I have no shame in this regard! – also try a lunge stretch: Step your right leg behind you. Bend both knees slightly. Tuck your pelvis so your hip bones curl toward your ribs. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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