Relax your muscles

Shayantani Sinha shares some simple moves to help you stay strong, limber and slim
The Community By Shayantani Sinha
Published on August 1, 2014
work out

Being toned can mean the difference between a bikini and a one-piece, sleeveless and a cardigan. However, it’s more than that: The amount of muscle you have impacts how much weight you gain, which influences your risk of issues like heart disease and diabetes.

TIGHTNESS

The lowdown: When your movement is restricted, your hips are bent. This shortens and tightens your hip flexors — the muscles at the front — while lengthening your back hip muscles, or glutes. This leaves you vulnerable to tears and strains.

What it feels like: Muscles feel tensed, contracted and your motion is limited.

Solution: Get up and get moving as much as possible. A lot of women are overdeveloped in their front — biceps, quads, chest. These imbalances can cause the front muscles to overcompensate for the weaker ones, leading to tightness. So apart from bicep curls, push-ups and squats, do tricep dips, bent-over rows and upright rows.

SORENESS

The lowdown: Stressing your muscles — by lifting weights or doing squats —creates microscopic tears. The tears make you sore, but the process of breaking and rebuilding muscle may increase its mass, so you grow leaner and stronger.

What it feels like: Tenderness or pain that peaks after a workout. You may notice mild swelling, stiffness in joints and weakness in the muscles.

Solution: Do some activity, even if it’s just walking, to encourage oxygen consumption and blood flow. Ice the sore area every couple of hours for 10 to 15 minutes or take an over-the-counter medicine.

CRAMPS

The lowdown: You’re blissfully asleep…until you wake up to mind-numbing pain in your calf. Yep, you’ve got muscle cramp or charley horse. Caused by spasms, or involuntary contractions, these are due to dehydration. As we lose muscle mass with age, what remains become overstressed, causing cramps. You may get them during pregnancy as your muscles stretch out.

What they feel like: A sudden, sharp pulling sensation. Cramps occur in the calf or thigh due to overuse or injury.

Solution: Massage and stretch the area. If possible, apply moist heat. To prevent cramps: When exercising outdoors, sip a drink to replenish electrolytes or snack on potassium-rich bananas or raisins.

AGING

The lowdown: At their peak, muscles make up about 40 per cent of your body weight. But their mass starts to decline after age 30. The number and size of muscle fibres decrease. This decrease accelerates around perimenopause, when testosterone levels, essential to maintaining muscle mass, start falling. The water content of the tendons lessens, too, causing stiffness.

What it feels like: You may gain weight, notice a drop in strength or find that you tire more quickly during exercise.

Solution: Pump it up! Research shows that lifting weights twice a week for 20 minutes will stave off these changes.

STRAINS

The lowdown: While getting microtears after a workout is common, larger tears — which may occur when a muscle is strained by stretching beyond its natural limit or suffering a blow—aren’t. Strains can happen in any muscle but often strike your thighs while you’re doing high-speed activities like sprinting or soccer.

What they feel like: Sudden, severe pain accompanied by snapping. Unlike soreness, this happens during the workout. You may see swelling and bruising.

Solution: Try a couple of days of rest, ice, compression and elevation and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. But if the pain doesn’t get better after 72 hours, see your doctor. Limit your movement until the strain is healed; you may need crutches and physical therapy.

AFTER WORKOUT STRETCHES

Do these stretches after your workout:

TRICEP STRETCH: With arms overhead, hold right elbow with left hand. Gently pull elbow behind head. Repeat with left elbow.
UPPER-BODY STRETCH: While standing or sitting, interlace fingers behind your back. With palms facing outward, slowly push your arms back and up.
SHOULDER STRETCH: Gently pull your right elbow across the chest toward the left shoulder. Repeat with left elbow.
HAMSTRING STRETCH: Sit on floor and straighten left leg. Bend right leg so the sole of your foot is next to your left inner thigh. Sit up tall and lean forward from hips, reaching toward left foot. Repeat with right leg.
QUAD STRETCH: While standing, hold your left foot with right hand and pull heel toward centre of buttocks. Repeat with right foot.

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