Accessibility Tools
Body Check: Getting in Touch with Your Body

A body check, a brief mental and physical evaluation of well being, involves being in touch with and aware of your body. Foremost, it is a mental awareness of your activity. For example, prolonged knee bending, called flexion, and twisting while bearing weight are known to be stressful to your knees.

Therefore, if you anticipate having to sit for a long time on a car trip or in a movie theater, for example, realize that this prolonged bending may cause discomfort. Break this constant pressure by extending your leg. Take a walk, sit on the aisle where there is room to stretch out, or find some other way to extend your legs. Knee pain may also come from muscles connected to your knees. Remember, your thigh muscles move your knee, so notice if they are tight. You may need to stretch them throughout the day with quadriceps, hamstring, or calf stretches.

Always perform a body check before you exercise. Here′s how it works. Start your stretching routine with, let′s say, toe touches. Bend over, keep your knees locked, and reach for your toes. Since everyone′s baseline flexibility is different, know what your usual "warmed-up" state is. If you can normally touch your toes and you can touch them now, there is no need to stretch longer or farther. However, if you are only able to get, let′s say, one foot from the ground, you need to spend some time stretching to get to a normal stretched-out state. You do this the following way:

Bend over, relax, and slowly reach for your toes. Feel the muscles you are stretching (in this example, the back of your thigh and lower back). Don′t bounce. Just gently stretch. The reason not to bounce is that bouncing activates the muscle stretch reflex that causes the muscle to contract. If you can now touch your toes (or reach your normal stretch) and you feel adequately stretched but still tight, stop the stretch.

This means that you need to start the exercise (at one-half speed) and then restretch. When you start to exercise, the muscle gets warmer, and your body responds to this by sweating. Thus, when you start feeling the sweat, it is a good signal that you can stretch a little more vigorously to achieve your maximum stretch. If you are stretched to the max, you can do your exercise or activity full speed. Your warm-up is complete. However, if you′re still not stretched out, be careful. You should modify your workout or you could get injured.

Some overall stretches are very familiar to us. When we roll the head gently to the right full circle and then to the left in the same way, we can hear the creaking and popping of the stretching. Afterwards, a sense of relaxation replaces the tension formerly there. Another exercise, standing with legs slightly bent and inhaling slowing and deeply while raising the arms over the head and exhaling as you lower them, slows the respiration and helps relieve stress.

Stretches good for your knees and the muscles around them are the calf stretch, the quadriceps stretch, the hamstring stretch, trunk stretches, and groin stretches (see illustrations). Try to hold each stretch at least six seconds, and work toward holding each for 30 seconds.

Calf stretch. Against the wall, place the left toe and elbows and palms of both hands. Place right leg behind left leg with heel down. Press hips into the wall with leg straight. While maintaining stretch, bend knee of right leg, and feel the stretch move down into the heel. Reverse positions and repeat.

Quad stretch. Kneel on the floor, keeping the back straight. With right hand, hold toes of right foot, pulling ankle toward the body and pushing hip forward. Repeat with other hand and foot.

Hamstring stretch. Place heel on a ballet bar or any waist-high object. Bend nose to knee, keeping back straight. To stretch muscles more, bend leg on which you are standing.

Trunk stretches. Lie on back in tight ball, having pulled bent knees to chest (A). Overhead, extend legs and arms (B). While sitting, raise one leg and twist body while crossing the leg over the other. Repeat with other leg (C).

Groin stretches. Sit on floor with legs in diamond shape in front of you. Lean forward to stretch groin and gluteus maximus. Pull heels in close to body, and lean forward, pressing down on knees to stretch groin and inner thigh. Then, with legs straight out to the sides, bend right ear to right leg, and then bend left ear to left leg. Finally, lean forward, pressing chest to floor.

Good activities to aid your knees in warming up are gentle biking (about 60 rpm), walking (3 mph), slow jogging (jogging is "slow" when you can pass the "talk test," which is being able to speak easily while running without becoming breathless), and performing leg lifts.

This is a section from Dr. Jack E, Jensen’s book The One Stop Knee Shop. Read the next section Flexibility and Strength Exercises.

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