Feeling tight and sore? Miss being able to visit your massage therapist to work out some kinks in your neck or knots in your back? Does working from home have you less active than you’re used to? Because many of us are housebound these days due to COVID-19, with very different routines than we perhaps once had, we may find ourselves feeling a little less mobile, with tighter muscles than we are used to. With this in mind, stretching is still a very good, easy and light activity to incorporate into our daily routines to keep us moving and feeling good. Often overlooked by many, stretching doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time consuming. Rather, it is something that is easy to take a five-minute break for and something that can really be re-energizing. Benefits of taking a few minutes to stretch include:

  • Increase flexibility
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improve your performance in physical activities
  • Increase blood flow to your muscles
  • Improve your posture
  • Help to heal and prevent back pain
  • Relieve stress
  • Decrease tension
  • Calm your mind

Here are a few favourite stretches focusing on gently increasing back mobility, opening up your shoulders and chest, and reducing neck tension. Try incorporating these into your everyday routine.

Neck Stretches

Whether you are watching TV, working on the computer or scrolling on your phone, your neck carries a lot of strain as your head is propped forward during each of these activities. To release some of the tension in your neck, either standing or seated, take a moment to:

  • Look up towards the ceiling as high as you can without there being any pain
  • Slowly rock your head to one side and hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  • Repeat this same thing on the other side
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  • Do this two to three times per side
  • Then slowly look down towards the floor
  • Slowly roll your head to each side in semi circles so that your ear meets your shoulder and your chin stays somewhat centred on your chest
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds twice per side
  • Remember to take your time and go slowly

You will usually feel the stretch at the base of your neck and top of your chest for the first stretch and for the second stretch you will feel it along the back of your neck and the sides of your neck.

Shoulder Stretches

Shoulders become quite tight and rounded forward when we sit for long periods of time either working on our computers or spending quite a bit of time on our phones. This next stretch requires you to stand and find a doorway in your house. Using both arms:

  • Stand at the open doorway
  • Raise your arms so they are parallel with the floor and bend your elbows 90 degrees
  • Rest your forearms on either side of the doorway, perpendicular to the floor
  • Relax your shoulders down and slowly lean into the doorway so that your chest moves forwards and your arms move backwards
  • Hold this stretch for 10 – 15 seconds, take a short rest and then repeat 3 to 4 times

For more of a stretch or to find the stretch that works best for you:

  • Move your hands up and down the doorway from head to waist height
  • Hold this stretch for 10 – 15 seconds a couple times
  • Remember to go slowly, take your time and be gentle with your body

You will feel this stretch along the entire pectoralis major muscle or, in simpler terms, across your chest. This is great for opening up your chest and creates a nice squeeze through your upper back.

Alternatively, you can stretch one arm at a time using the same idea as above.

As you start to stretch, you can turn your body in the opposite direction of your arm to feel more of an opening along the front of your shoulder. Do this for 10 – 15 seconds twice per side.

 

Back Stretches

There are many stretches for the back, but to keep things simple and easily accessible from anywhere in your house, we will look at three stretches. The first requires you to be seated, cross legged is best if you are able to do so and is comfortable for you. Once seated:

  • Reach your left hand to the floor so that it is holding you up and reach your right hand to the sky
  • Slowly start to tilt your spine (lean) over to the left as your right hand follows and reaches towards the left wall
    • If you are quite flexible already, you may find that your left forearm ends up resting on the ground
  • Switch over to the other side slowly (Think tall grass blowing gently in the breeze!)
  • Reach your right hand to the floor and left hand to the sky
  • Slowly start to tilt your spine to the right
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds twice per side

This stretch targets your entire side body and helps lengthen and release the spine. The next stretch will work on spine mobility through a gentle twist. Sitting upright and as tall as you can:

  • Wrap your arms around you, giving yourself a hug
  • Slowly rotate your entire upper body as far as you can to the left and hold
  • Slowly rotate your entire upper body back through centre and to the right
  • Hold this for 10 – 15 seconds twice per side

To finish off your back stretches:

  • Place both hands on the floor in front of you
  • Slowly start to lean forward so that your back lengthens forwards
  • You do not need to go super low or deep in this stretch, just enough so you feel a good stretch up and along your spine
  • Hold for 15 – 30 seconds once (or twice if you have time)

Remember, it is important to be gentle with your body, especially when stretching it out. Move slowly and carefully in each stretch and take your time, moving mindfully until the end of each pose. There is no need rush nor to push it past your comfort level because stretching is supposed to feel good. Most of all, remember to continue to breathe during each stretch and just enjoy the 5 or so minutes you have taken for yourself!

Some say running can be addictive. Some have a love / hate relationship with it. While others won’t even touch it with a 6-foot pole! Truth is, if you are able to do it, running is a great activity to do on your own, especially during these difficult COVID-19 times when social distancing is a real thing and you can’t just throw your shoes on, grab your gym bag and head out to your favourite exercise class. Running can be a wonderful alternative to what you were once doing when you could exercise in large groups. Even more than that, running allows you to get outside, be in nature and to really feel the cool breeze on your face and fresh air in your lungs.

If running is new to you, there are a number of resources you could use to really set you off on the right foot and ensure you ease into it and avoid injury. If you are an experienced runner and lacing up your running shoes is an everyday occurrence, then these apps could give you that extra edge when it comes to your running game.

No matter your experience, these walking and running apps might meet your needs during these trying times. The following apps are available for no charge and offer at least a portion of their features without having a paid subscription. Track your progress, explore new routines and keep your body moving with guidance and extra support!

 

Nike Run Club

Like their shoes, Nike Run Club is one of the most popular running apps available, especially if you have an Apple Watch, which allows you to get stats and feedback during your runs without carrying your phone! You can connect to Apple Music or Spotify right from the app to gain access to curated playlists that are specific for your runs. This free app offers GPS tracking, audio-guided workouts, weekly and monthly distance challenges to keep you motivated and personalized coaching plans. If you are a social runner, and are really missing running with your friends, Nike Run Club app gives you the opportunity to compete with friends and cheer one another on during runs and collective challenges. From guided runs to a My Coach option that allows you to choose a workout plan ranging from four to eight weeks, Nike Run Club provides it all!

Download Nike Run Club from the App Store for iOS and from Google Play for Android.

 

Map My Run

Map My Run is an app that has been around the block a few times. First debuting as a way to measure running routes, this app now offers runners additional helpful and fun features. You can still use it to track your runs and find preloaded local running routes, but you can also get feedback on your running status to improve performance, you can input your running shoes and the app’s Gear Tracker will notify you when it is time to replace them, and you can join the Map My Run community to connect with fellow runners so you can stay motivated with fun and engaging running challenges. Since it is available for both iOS and Android, MapMyRun is compatible with other popular apps and devices which allows you to sync your data with gadgets like your Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin and more. You will need to download the free account to get started and then will have the option to begin a 14-day free trial, which unlocks a whole suite of additional features, including live tracking, audio coaching, training plans and more.

Download MapMyRun from the App Store for iOS and from Google Play for Android.

 

C25K

This app is a great for beginners! New runners love how C25K 5 K Trainer took them from couch potato to the finish line of a 5K race in 8 weeks. This app has pre-designed training plans that guide you through various workouts each week and, for beginners, some of these programs  start with a combination of walking and running, which allows you to gradually build up your strength and stamina, giving you the confidence to run longer and longer distances and make running a regular habit. Like Running by Daily Burn, you will get verbal feedback as you are running to keep you motivated to stick with the training and the app will keep track of your progress and running routes.

Download C25K 5 K Trainer from the App Store for iOS and from Google Play for Android.

 

Running by Daily Burn

If you have already visited Homewurx Yoga section, you may have seen the review on Yoga Workouts by Daily Burn! This app is great if you are a runner of any fitness level and love in-your-ear coaching! You can choose from interval, outdoor, treadmill, tempo, distance runs, free runs and more. The app also allows you to choose time or distance to run on your own while the app tracks your progress and sets a pace for you. For the app to curate your runs for you, it will prompt you for your running goals. When you sign up, you will answer questions about what you want to accomplish (for example get faster, build endurance, etc.) and how often you want to workout per week. With guided warm-ups and stretches to prevent injury, and the ability to share your best runs with others, this app really offers it all.

Download Running by Daily Burn from the App Store for iOS.

 

Zombies, Run!

This app is definitely in a category of its own! Although it is an app consisting of training plans where you can track your runs, the app incorporates a narrative game into your running routine! This makes it fun and a little different than other apps. Upon downloading the app, you are introduced to the zombie-story line where you are given missions in the form of walking, jogging or running in the real world. You can listen to the story and your own music at the same time as you use your cardio routine to save the world! Zombie Apocalypse aside, the app offers training programs ranging from 5km expert to marathon beginner and provides statistics on your progress. For those of you that are like me and enjoy being slightly distracted during a run, this is the app for you! It turns exercise into more of a game!

Download Zombies, Run! from the App Store for iOS or from Google Play for Android.

If a yoga only app is just not enough variety for you, check out Grokker. This app provides you with HIIT classes, pilates and thousands of fitness videos, in addition to yoga. Easy to use filters have been conveniently built into the app so you can choose your intensity, duration and equipment desired for your workout. On Grokker, you can also find over 80 goal-oriented programs like the ’21-Day Happy Yoga Challenge” and “Weight Management Jumpstart”, as well as a tracker that allows you to input what you have already accomplished. The app also lets you schedule future workouts and offers healthy cooking videos and other self-help topics. Grokker’s holistic well-being experience is definitely not one to be missed!

Cost:

It is free to download the app. Once you create an account, you will be prompted to pick a plan and given a 14-day free trial before you get billed for the plan you choose. You do have the chance to cancel anytime within the 14-day free trial.

Annually – $159.99 billed once a year (works out to $13.33 / month)

Monthly – $20.00 billed every month

Download this app from either Google Play for your Android or from the App Store for iOS!

Looking for something less “time intensive”, try the 5 Minute Yoga app. Specifically designed for spur-of-the-moment yoga, 5 Minute Yoga has a multitude of stretches and flows perfect for those with limited time or attention spans when it comes to working out. Each video is no longer than five minutes, making it easy to fit in a stretch whenever you have time and you will still reap the benefits of yoga! Improve flexibility, increase strength, tone your muscles and reduce stress. Each pose has clear images and detailed instructions making it ideal for beginners and more experienced yogis alike.

Cost:

This app is free to download and you get access to daily 5-Minute Yoga sessions. You have the option to upgrade to Premium which gives you access to all exercises, over 300 sessions, and the ability to listen to your own music.

One Time Purchase – $13.99 unlocks everything

Subscribe – $2.99 / month OR 9.49 / year

Download this app from either Google Play for your Android or from the App Store for iOS!

Looking for something more focused? Yoga Workouts is an easy-to-use app that is designed to help you reach your goals. Upon opening the app, you get to choose what it is you want to accomplish. For example, you can choose from “lose weight” or “get stronger”. The app will then curate your classes into weekly workouts depending on what you have chosen. Alternatively, classes are available on-demand with numerous classes available within a variety of categories. From “strength” to “balance”, from “tone” to “weight loss”, you really can find the videos you want with real instructors.

Cost:

The app is free to download with the option for an In-App purchase to get access to unlimited yoga workouts. This includes personalized weekly plans, 1-on-1 video instruction, quick stretches to reset your day and classes for every fitness level.

Annually – After a 30-day free trial, the annual cost is $79.99 billed once a year.

Monthly – After a 30-day free trial, the monthly cost is $10.49 billed once a month.

Download this app from the App Store for iOS!

Looking for something a little more intense. Perhaps a class that matches some of the more power flows you attended at your local studio. If this resonates with you, Asana Rebel may be the app for you. With a focus on everything from building strength to burning fat, their classes are more high-energy than traditional yoga sessions, with music to match! Asana Rebel gives you the option to choose workouts based on your personal goals, the body part you’re wishing to target or length of workout, including a 5-minute mini workout great for jump starting your day or give you a boost during those afternoon lows!

Cost:

It is free to download the app. With an Asana Rebel membership, you will have unlimited access to over 100 Inspired Fitness workouts covering fat burn, toning, flexibility, relaxation and much more. Also included in your membership are a variety of healthy and nutritious recipes, high quality video and audio guidance and calming sounds to help with sleep and guided meditations.

Annual – $99.99 / year billed annually (works out to 8.33 / month)

Quarterly – $67.99 / quarterly (works out to $22.66 / month)

Download this app from either Google Play or from the App Store  for iOS!

If this is your first-time trying yoga or you are still relatively new to yoga, Pocket Yoga is the ideal app for you. Many new yogis may get stopped at even trying yoga because of all the poses. If this resonates with you, Pocket Yoga is the perfect place to start as it offers an extensive ‘pose dictionary’ that breaks down every pose so you can really understand the pose and be sure you are getting it right. In addition, Pocket Yoga offers a variety of classes that range from as little as 5 minutes to a full hour at various difficulty levels. The app uses an animated instructor and does not require an internet connection, giving you the ‘flexibility’ (pun intended!) to practice anytime, anywhere.

Cost:

Pocket yoga has an app purchase of $3.99. After that there are no further In-App purchases required to access the full app.

Download this app from either Google Play for your Android or from the App Store for iOS!

Glo is an app you want to get into! Offering over 3,700 classes led by nearly 50 different teachers, Glo suggests classes for you to try or allows you to easily search for what you’re looking for when it comes to yoga, pilates and meditation. Helpful filters allow you to personalize your search by skill level, duration, body part, required props (like blocks, bolsters and straps). Glo is great for those just starting out as well as for those who have a mature practice already who want to hone in on some skills. Glo’s super sleek design is very user friendly and makes getting started a breeze.

Cost:

It is free to download the app. With a Glo membership, you will have immediate and unlimited access to yoga, meditation and Pilates classes led by expert instructors and have a practice designed just for you. If you choose to go the Glo membership route, you can either be billed annually (which works out to be a little cheaper) or pay month to month. A 15-day free trial is offered with this app and has no commitment during the trial period and you can cancel at any time within that trial period.

Annual –  After the 15-day free trial period, the cost is $259.99 / year ($21.67 per month and billed annually)

Montlhy – After the 15-day free trial period, the cost is $29.99 / month and is billed monthly.

Download this app from either Google Play for your Android or from the App Store for iOS!

If you are still feeling slightly skeptical about this whole meditation thing or thinking that meditation is ‘good for everyone else’, but not really for me, here is an App to check out!

10% Happier is an App developed for the meditation skeptic who is unsure of the whole idea of meditating and perhaps even thinking it is some ‘hippy dippy namaste practice’ that isn’t for them. Based on a book of the same name by Dan Harris, the 10% Happier App features a diverse group of teachers, including scientists and traditional meditation teachers, and a growing library of instructional videos and audio meditation. Topics include sleep, anxiety, stress and becoming more productive. 10 % Happier prides itself on its ‘no b**s***’ approach. It still discusses serious emotional issues, but does it with a sense of humour and relatability and few of the trappings that have historically turned a lot of people away from meditation.

 

Download the App here for iOS

The Aura App focusses on shifting people out of spaces of stress and anxiety and brings them into a place of grounding and happiness using soothing sounds and guided meditations. The App encourages and prompts you to meditate whenever you have a few spare minutes. You can choose sessions that last for 3, 7, or 10 minutes, allowing you to easily de-stress over short periods of time, like your lunch break. Fans of Aura like it for its daily meditations, life coaching, nature sounds, stories and music, which are all personalized based on the mood you select when you open the app. Similar to Insight Timer, there is an option to track your moods and review patterns in how you feel. In addition, with the premium subscription, Aura offers captivating short stories that provide an escape from the daily grind and a gratitude journal helps you remember how far you have come in your meditation practice.

Cost:

The App is free to download for iOS here

Annual – first 7-days for free with no commitment and you can cancel at any time within those 7 days. Afterwards the cost is $59.99 / year

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