Sunday, 14 September 2014

Stretch and Slim In the Morning

Ease Into Toned Muscles : Wakey Wakey 

 Let me introduce you to stretch and slim in the morning. Here are the first of my toning exercises, the breathing stretch, how to flatten out your back to prevent injury, some abs toning with 'paddling' and 'stepping.' More suggestions follow in future posts, there are too many to include on one page. Enjoy and let me know how you get on.

from young man relaxing in bed
My toning exercises start when I wake in the morning, unfortunately not with the eye-candy here, but by stretching in bed. I'll explain why he is there in just a minute. 

I am assuming you were like me a few weeks ago, and you have not been doing any form of exercise for a while. So I advocate you start slowly - only do a couple of repeats at a time. If you like, start with one exercise and work up to including more as you progress. 

This is not something that will give you a sylphlike figure fast, it is a start. It will only work if you are taking measures to get rid of the fat underlying the muscles by changing to a healthier diet. You really do need to take in less calories than you burn - there is no getting away from it but it doesn't have to mean starving yourself either

That said these exercises are less about burning calories as about toning muscles. That you burn up a few calories is an added bonus.

Like the changes in you diet, starting slow with toning exercises, you are more likely to keep going than if you start with knee jerks and a 30 minute workout that you are not even tempted to repeat more than once.

NOTE: As always - protect your back!

  1. These won't work well on a soft mattress - you need to have one that supports your back. Mine is a memory foam one and works fine. 
  2. Pay attention to the instructions that tell you to press your lower back into the mattress.

These stretches should give your muscles a bit of an ache but NO pain.

For best effect follow the breathing instructions. If you do the toning in time to your breathing it will be slow and steady - if it isn't, your are hyperventilating!

The resting periods when I ask you to flop are important too - they give your muscles time to recover, you may even find them twitching a little bit when you stop. Rest as long as you like but take at least a minute between each set of stretches.

Do these in no particular order - read them all through several time until you have the idea imprinted in your brain. You will eventually find the order that makes you most comfortable.

Start off doing only a few as described and build up over several weeks until you are doing around 30. As you strengthen the muscles, especially those in your back, you can run all these exercised together to form one unit. Then rest.

See the guy up there - he is lying back relaxing, but note how his stomach muscles are pulled in - he has done that by taking a deep breath in as he pulls in the abdominal muscles, breathing out and letting the abdo muscles flatten, then holding with shallow breaths. Let's try it - it is as good a place to start as any.

Breathing Stretch

  1. Stretch out in bed, your whole body in line from top to toe, legs and feet together.
  2. Taking a deep breath in - raise your arms and put your hands behind your head pulling in the muscles of your stomach. Smoothly and steadily pull them in, you are not clenching them, just holding them tighter than normal. 
  3. Breathe out completely letting your stomach flatten even more.
  4. Hold that position for four shallow breaths.
  5. Flop - let all your muscles relax completely. If you are going to repeat the stretch, keep your hands behind your head, if not bring your arms down by your side. Let your legs and feet fall apart. Rest for 1 minute before repeating. 
  6. Start with one or two of these and build up over the weeks.  
Muscles used

This is the big muscle that runs from the ribs to the pubic bone - you might think it is in two pieces, upper and lower but it is only one.
upper back

young man stretching from
Variation: - Follow our young man's example and stretch out. 
  1. Keep your back flat on the bed - breathe in and pull in your stomach muscles. Raise your arms above your head.
  2. Breath out completely flattening your stomach more.
  3. Tighten your hands into fists.
  4. Hold the position for three shallow breaths.
  5. Flop - let the muscles relax but keep your arms raised.
  6. Breathing in, tense arms muscles again, hold for 3 shallow breaths and relax.
  7. Repeat 3 times building up over the weeks.
  8. All the time you are doing this, keep you stomach muscles tense.

Muscles used

Abdominal muscle
upper back

Flatten the Back

By the nature of your spine, your back has a bend that leaves you with a little hollow space between your back and the mattress. To protect your lower back you need to flatten out that hollow and press your back into the bed. Here's how you do that. I recommend you do this before you start any of the stretch and tone exercises.
  1. Lie flat in bed.
  2. Taking a deep breath in, pull your knees up to your chest.
  3. Letting your breath go, put your feet on the bed then slid your legs flat. 
  4. This should push your lower back into the mattress. 
muscles from

Abs Tone

  1. Lie flat in bed, legs and feet together, head flat or on one pillow. 
  2. Press your lower back into the mattress. 
  3. Place your hands on your abdomen so you can feel the muscles moving while you do this. At first it may seem very little is happening but it is. Remember there are deeper layers of muscle you will not feel.
  4. Take a deep breath in, pulling your stomach muscles in, breathe out flattening them even more.
  5. With your feet together and your heels on the bed, take a slow deep breath in, pull your toes up toward you pulling in your stomach muscles. Again, not clenched to the point of pain, just tightened.
  6. Breathing out point your toes downward.
  7. Use slow breaths, breathe in and pull your toes up toward you.
  8. Breathing out, point your toes downwards. 
  9. During your first week, repeat three times and over the weeks build it up to any number you are comfortable with. I usually do 10 because I do other exercises as well.
  10. Paddle is a natural progression which brings the oblique abdominal muscles into play. 
  11. Continuing with the steady breathing in time to each movement, point the toes of one foot while pulling up the toes of the other. 
  12. At first repeat 3 times then build it up over the weeks. 
  13. Breathing in, pull both sets of toes up toward you and hold that position for 3 shallow breaths. 
  14. Flop - let the muscles go and relax and rest for at least one minute but as long as you need to let the muscles recover. 

Muscles used in this toning exercise

Abs including oblique muscles
lower back

Abs Tone Extra - Stepping

Tag this onto the end of the exercise above. At first when you start these, take time to rest in between the different elements.
  1. As above - steps 1 to 5.
  2. Heels flat on the bed. Breathing in pull your toes toward you, breath out and hold that position for a couple of shallow breaths.
  3. Use the rhythm of your breathing alternately lengthen each leg in a sort of lying-down stepping motion. 
  4. Repeat 3 times on each side. Build up the repetition over several weeks.
  5. Bring both sets of toes up and hold for several shallow breaths.
  6. Flop and rest.
This exercise really does use the oblique muscles and more importantly perhaps, the muscles of your lower back. If you are not fit take it easy.

Muscles used in this toning exercise

Oblique abdominal muscles
lower back

woman with measuring tape from
So you are on your way! These simple exercises are designed to get you used to toning muscles without hardship. Plenty more to come so be sure to join me on my wellness journey. 

You might like to take measurements of your chest, wrist and hips on your first day - the measure you again one week on. Don't be tempted to measure every day - you only set yourself up for disappointment. 

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