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ELLE (Malaysia) - - BEAUTY FIT CLUB -

Stretch Clinic founder and sports ther­a­pist Liam Hark­ness asks me to stand in front of a pos­ture grid and have a pic­ture taken. It high­lights my odd slump: belly out, foot be­hind me, head tilted for­ward. Poor pos­ture is car­ried over from sit­ting eight hours a day at work, Liam ex­plains, into work­outs and even sleep, where we side sleep to mir­ror how we sit through­out the day.

My body is a clas­sic ex­am­ple; my pelvis isn’t aligned and both sides of my body are un­bal­anced, with my right foot cav­ing into its arch. When guided on how I would stand with the right pos­ture, it feels like hold­ing a yoga pose, strange and ex­haust­ing.

Stretch­ing and strength­en­ing are the key strate­gies used in Ac­tive Iso­lated Stretch­ing to re­gain strength and find bal­ance. Iso­lated stretches – where you let your tar­get mus­cle re­lax while contracting its op­pos­ing mus­cles – are held for a max­i­mum of two sec­onds and re­peated eight to 10 times, ex­hal­ing with each stretch. Breath­ing is key, as it ef­fec­tively takes your mind off an­tic­i­pat­ing the pain.

While I’m seated, Liam presses into my mus­cles to lo­cate where the pain is. For me, it’s the right pelvis, from my ex­ag­ger­ated leg cross­ing. He then passes me a non-stretchy band to hook to my foot. Ly­ing on my back, I’m told to lift my right leg into the air and pull with my arms, ex­tend­ing fur­ther than I’d usu­ally man­age, ex­hal­ing with each stretch. With each lift, I push higher and higher. This com­bi­na­tion of repet­i­tive short stretches means I’m less scared of the pain, my mus­cles don’t clench up and my range of mo­tion ac­tu­ally in­creases. I’m then led through stretches to open up my hips and strengthen my back.

But I can only tell you so much as the one-on-one ses­sions are cus­tomised for ev­ery client. “We have a pro­gramme where we teach peo­ple how to self-care so when they come in we’ll give them ex­er­cises to do at home and if they do those well the body will start to change its pos­ture,” Liam ex­plains. “Once you reach a cer­tain level we can give more ex­er­cises. After three or four ses­sions they should be able to self-care very well. We have clients who have had pain prob­lems for many years and their spinal align­ment is re­ally poor. That does take a lit­tle bit longer.”

The Stretch Clinic founder Liam Hark­ness teach­ing me how to strengthen my back through Ac­tive Iso­lated Stretch­ing.

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