Mary McCracken here again. How are you doing? After three weeks of lockdown and another three ahead, you have been swamped with good advice about how to manage to stay fit and healthy and mentally in good shape.
Everyone is different but in terms of coping with this highly unusual situation there is one theme that repeats itself, and especially when you hear interviews with those who have experienced survival under difficult conditions. The best advice seems to be to give each day a structure so that you have small targets to achieve.
How to do this? Make sure that you take a moment at the end of each day to look over what you have managed to do that day and give yourself a pat on the back for anything that has been positive. That doesn’t mean running a marathon on your balcony or round your garden, but it maybe simply that you got up when the alarm went off and started your day well, or at least with good intention. The next step after that is to look ahead to the next day and try to plan it, however flexibly, so that there is some structure to it. I wouldn’t go as far as some say that you need to know what you are doing every minute of the day. It might work well when, as... you are alone isolating, but families demand a lot of flexibility especially where children are concerned.
So when you hear ‘start smart, stay strong’ this is a great example of starting smart. We can start even smarter when that alarm goes off, and while we’re still in bed. These five exercises can be done in bed and are a very good habit to get into which takes so little time that you don’t have an excuse to put them off for later.
Why not try now. Lay down on your back, a bed or floor will do.
The first exercise is - number one, is just for fun.
While lying on your back, open your mouth and give a great big yawn, make it very exaggerated stretching all the muscles of your face and the back of your throat at the same time you breathe in very deeply, then as you breathe out as you relax your face, make a big exaggerated smile, go on really stretch that smile, and as you come to breathe in again, change that to a big open mouth yawn and breathe in right down into your stomach. Do this two times. Then keep the smile going.
Exercise number two is called ‘tick tock’. Keep the smile going.
Still on your back, bend your knees up and keep your feet flat on the bed or floor. This is the starting position. Now you simply swing both knees as far as you can to the left, then to the right. This is a fantastic exercise if you have lower back problems. Do you feel the stretch in your lower back. Don’t force things, swing over only as far as is comfortable, after a few days you will be able to get a bit further each time. One tick tock is a swing to the left, to the right and back to centre. Do this five times.
Exercise number three is ‘hold the knee’
When you have returned to the starting position, if you can reach forward and grasp behind your left knee. Then straighten your left leg, point your toe, and gently pull your leg towards you as far as is comfortable, so that your toe is more or less pointing straight up. Can you feel the stretch at the back of your thigh? Now with your leg still pointing upwards, flex your ankle so that you toe instead of pointing upwards points down towards your head. Do you feel even more of a stretch this time also in your calf? Ok, lower your leg and return to the starting position, which is still on your back with both knees bent upwards and both feet flat on the bed or floor. The grasp behind your right knee and do the same stretch but straightening the leg, bringing the knee towards you as far as is comfortable pointing your toe, the flex your ankle so the toes points towards you and return to the starting position. Do this twice on each side.
Exercise number four is easy to remember – it’s the figure four.
As you return to the starting position, lying flat with both legs bent at the knee, lift your left leg , and if you can, place the foot on your right thigh just at the knee. It’s as if you are crossing your legs very widely letting the left foot rest on the right thigh The left knee will be bent and pointing outwards, so that your legs now look like the figure four. With your left hand, very gently press down on the left knee so that you get a stretch in your left hip. Very gently give that knee five little bounces but stop if you feel any discomfort. Then uncross your legs, and return to the starting position. Repeat this with the right leg, 5 little bounces and return to the starting position. Repeat the left and right legs once more.
Exercise number five is called ‘time to go’ because it gets you ready to plunge into the day ahead. Are you still smiling?
Straighten your legs, now stretch your arms up above your head as far as is comfortable and at the same time take a deep breath in, feeling the air going deep, deep down into your lower stomach, Stretch a little more now pointing your toes and hold that stretch for a few seconds, then as you breathe out, bring your arms down to your sides, flex your ankles to bring your toes towards you, and relax. And once more, while taking in a slow deep breath, take your arms up and straight above your head, point your toes, stretch just that bit more, hold it and relax, bringing your arms back to your sides, pint your toes towards you and relax.
I hope you are still smiling as you start your day with a pat on the back.
Till next time, start smart, stay strong.
Club Doctor, Northampton Town Football Club