I don’t know about you, but as the winter and the pandemic drag on, I find myself climbing the walls. I feel like I don’t have to elaborate. We are all in “Plan B” (and probably C, D and E) and have been for a long time now. Perhaps we have run out of ways to “get through.” Or, hopefully we are doing OK, but could sure use a boost.
Here’s a suggestion. Find a wall, any wall, and embrace it. Well, not literally, but what I mean is you can stop thinking of it as “just a wall”, and turn it into an agent for homing in on some important, and often overlooked, fitness principles. Bear with me here, these can serve you in good stead moving forward. While we may not know what the future holds, we can prime ourselves to engage in it with some new tools to keep ourselves healthy and fit.
Some of these moves may not even be super challenging, but the point is to focus more on what they are doing for you. The idea is to apply these concepts to other exercises, sports you may participate in, or just plain moving around. They can be surprisingly useful.
Without further adieu, let’s get on with it. Graphics of these exercises are down below.
1. The Principle: Hip and ankle mobility.
Why is this important? Often we do not lift our knees to give our hips their full chance to flex, unless we are stretching. Doing so in this exercise strengthens the hip flexors and most muscles in the front of your thigh (the quads), while keeping them mobile. Another major area of neglect is often our ankles. And yet, it is here that anything we do standing up begins. Ankle strength and mobility is critical for sports, working out, or taking a walk. Weak or immobile ankles can severely limit how we move.
The Exercise: Knee and heel raise. Start with your feet at least three feet from the wall, arms outstretched and touching the wall as if you are about to do a push-up. Lift one knee toward your chest while lifting the heel of the other foot. Return to starting position and alternate lifting knee and opposite heel. Continue, alternating, 20 times. You will feel it!
2. The Principle: Hamstring stretch (and relaxation).
Why is this important? Keeping all our muscles flexible and not tight helps us move in a balanced, coordinated, and injury-free manner. Tight hamstrings can pull on our pelvis and cause it to become chronically tilted, limit our mobility, and cause back strain and other issues related to misaligned posture. Tight hamstrings can also cramp or tear when pushed suddenly or too hard.
The Exercise: Hamstring stretch. Lay on a mat placed where you can place one leg vertically on the wall. The leg on the floor can either be straight or bent, depending on what feels comfortable to you. Bring your butt as close to the wall as possible, so that the vertical leg gets as close to straight up as you can manage without pain. Then relax! What could be better? And then of course switch and stretch the other leg.
3. The Principle: Spine stability. Why is this important? With this move and many others, if you twist your low back instead of keeping it in line with your hips and torso, you can place a strain on the vertebrae of the low back, leading to injury and pain. An important skill to have on board is to be able to rotate your body by letting your upper body and hips do the motion, thereby sparing the low back from doing the twisting.
The Exercise: Plank with rotation. Get into plank position with your forearms on the wall, feet at least three feet away from the wall. Using your feet to pivot, and keeping your spine braced, open out and rotate to one side, slowly. Go back to the original position and then rotate the other way. Do this 10 times. You will notice that your abdominal muscles engage as you do this. Learning to engage your abdominals during rotation (or other moves) is huge for keeping your spine healthy and pain free.
4. The Principle: Lower body strength and the power of isometrics (isometrics is when your muscles are working even though they aren’t moving). Why is this important? You may have noticed that being able to pull off a squat is critical for accomplishing daily tasks like using the toilet, getting up from a chair, or getting out of a car. These three endeavors in particular require you to get up without the benefit of already being in motion. Meaning, you are starting from a static, even resting, position. To give yourself an easy time of it, plus the added bonus of feeling fit, you can do the following exercise.
The Exercise: Wall sit. With your back to the wall and standing fairly close to it, slide down until you are sitting upright against the wall with your knees bent 90 degrees, if possible. You do not have to slide all the way down to 90 if you can’t manage it. When you reach your max, stay there and try to relax into the position. You will be working hard, but don’t strain or tense up. Count how many seconds you can do. Over time, you will be able to do this longer. Press up to get out of the position.
5. Last but not least, if you really are climbing the walls, do it as shown below for a nice shoulder and tricep stretch! Stand with your toes a few inches from the wall, and walk your fingers/hands up as far as you can go. It’s important to engage your abdominals as you do this to avoid arching your back.
Remember, it is the principles here that I am trying to convey. To review, they are:
- Keeping your hips and ankles strong and mobile
- Stretching your hamstrings
- Protecting your spine by keeping it stable while rotating
- Strengthening your lower body for daily activities
- Being mindful of using your abdominals to keep you in good posture
Courage! Stay positive! We can still embrace climbing the walls so that we are ahead of the game when we get to “the other side.”
© 2021 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.