Your TFL band can also become overused if you spend a lot of time sitting, especially in positions that involve good amounts of both hip flexion and hip abduction—say, sitting on the couch with your knee pulled up toward your chest on the outside of your shoulder, says Lakes. What are symptoms of a tight IT band?Most often, people with ITB syndrome feel a sharp pain on the outside of the knee just above the kneecap when they bend or straighten the knee, says Lakes. Sometimes, IT band knee pain can travel up the thigh to the hip, according to Cedars-Sinai, a nonprofit academic healthcare organization. So yes, considering your IT band for hip pain is a thing.Some people only have this pain when they work out, especially when they run. (That’s why IT band stretches for runners is super important!) But others may have pain outside of exercise, per Cedars-Sinai. How do you treat IT band pain?To treat IT band pain, you want to loosen up the front of the hip as well as strengthen both the glute medius and glute minimus muscles, says Lakes. For some people, stretching alone can resolve the IT band pain, says Lakes, but since that’s not the case for everyone, it’s important to consider both approaches.You can loosen up the front hip, and thus achieve better flexibility, by foam rolling, applying heat, and/or stretching. And you can strengthen the glute medius and minimus by consistently doing exercises that target these muscles. (You may also consider a mini-band workout that targets your smaller butt muscles).If you have IT band pain, it’s also important to scale back the activities that are causing the pain. Try running or cycling shorter distances, and if you still have pain, stop these activities completely, suggests the National Library of Medicine. At that point, you may want to check in with a doctor or physical therapist to get evaluated and prescribed a personalized treatment plan. How often should you stretch your IT band? You can do IT band stretches as often as every day, says Lakes. Strength exercises should be done a little less often–say, three times a week—since you’ll need time for your muscles to recover and build back stronger. If you’re a runner, Lakes recommends doing strength exercises before you run since they can help properly prime your muscles for the activity. To keep things even, try to do IT band stretches and exercises on both sides of your body, even if your IT band pain is only on one side, says Lakes. That said, if you’re really limited on time, you can just focus on working the side that’s in pain, he adds.Quick caveat: Depending on the severity of your IT band pain, the below iliotibial band stretches and moves may not be enough to alleviate your symptoms. Seek help from a doctor or from physical therapy if you have any of these symptoms for a month: feelings of tightness, pulling, clicking or snapping on the outside of the knee when you walk, climb stairs, or transition from sitting to standing (and vice-versa), says Lakes.The ExercisesDirections: Do the stretches (first three moves) as often as you’d like, holding each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. Do the strength exercises (last five moves) several times a week, aiming for four sets of 15 repetitions each.
Whether you’re hosting a big family meal, traveling to attend one, or are doing something a little different, there’s no getting around it: Holidays can be stressful. Morning stretches, though, can help you begin the day in a relaxed, chill headspace.Doing gentle movements in the morning can do wonders to ground you and get you into “that mental state that you need to be in to stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the entire day,” Denise Prichard, a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) in Phoenix, tells SELF.Additionally, by taking a few minutes to move your body, you can loosen up tight areas, improve your posture and alignment, and set yourself up to generally just feel better—both physically and, like we mentioned, mentally. These benefits hold true no matter what your holiday plans look like, says Prichard—whether you’re spending hours on your feet in the kitchen, playing a casual game of football in the yard, or staying stationary on the couch.With that in mind, Prichard developed the following five-move yoga stretch sequence that you can do to start your holiday off on the right note. Put together, these five stretches target your entire body, from your neck, back, and shoulders down to your hamstrings and calves.“These are really simple stretches,” says Prichard, explaining the morning stretch routine is accessible for a range of fitness levels, including folks who have never done yoga before. You don’t need any equipment or special level of flexibility to do this sequence; all you need is your bodyweight and maybe a yoga mat.So if you feel like your holiday plans can use a proactive dose of chill, set aside just a few minutes before it all begins to focus on some grounding, gentle movement with these morning stretches. Happy stretching!The WorkoutWhat you need: Just your bodyweight! You may want a yoga mat for comfort.ExercisesCat-cowThread the needlePuppy poseDownward facing dogChest stretchDirectionsDo each pose for five to 10 breaths. You’ll get benefits from doing the sequence just once, but if you have time, feel free to go through it once or twice more. If you do the sequence once, Prichard recommends holding each pose for 10 breaths.Demoing the moves below are Shauna Harrison (GIFs 1-2), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Jessica Rihal (GIF 3), a plus-sized yoga instructor (200-HR) and a strong advocate of fitness/wellness for all bodies; and Caitlyn Seitz (GIF 4-5), a New York–based group fitness instructor and singer-songwriter.
About eight out of 10 people will have back pain at some point in their lives, according to the National Library of Medicine. The upshot: Doing yoga for back pain can help assuage this unfortunately common medical issue.By moving your body through certain yoga positions, you can promote blood flow, improve mobility, release tension, and build strength in key areas. Best part is, you don’t need a yoga studio membership to reap these benefits—there are tons of yoga moves you can do at home to help, zero equipment required.We tapped Candace Harding, DPT, an integrative physical therapist and registered yoga teacher in Arlington, to learn more about the benefits of yoga for back pain as well as do’s and don’ts for adding yoga poses for back pain to your routine. Harding also shared with SELF 12 awesome yoga moves you can try today for a less achy backside, including yoga for upper back pain and yoga stretches for lower back pain.Keep scrolling for all you need to know!What are some benefits of yoga for back pain?Curious how, exactly, yoga can help relieve lower back pain, as well as pain in the upper body? We’ll explain in a sec, but first, let’s get clear on what causes back aches in the first place.For many people, back pain starts because their core is weak, Harding tells SELF. When your core muscles—which include all the muscles in your torso from the top of your diaphragm down to your pelvic floor—aren’t all firing like they should, your back can take on too much stress as it tries to overcompensate. And that stress can translate into pain.“It’s kind of like an office environment where one coworker isn’t doing their job, and for a while, somebody else is willing to pick up the slack,” Harding tells SELF. “But eventually, they get pissed that their coworker isn’t showing up.”Having tight muscles such as hip flexors (a group of muscles along the front of your upper thigh that flex your hips) can also contribute to back pain. That’s because when your hip flexors get tight—which can happen from sitting too much as well as overuse during certain activities, like running—they pull your low back into a reversal of its natural curvature, explains Harding. And that unnatural positioning can cause aches and pains.Quick distinction: When many people talk about back pain, they’re referring to low back pain, says Harding. Low back pain, she explains, which tends to focus around the lumbar spine, is much more common than upper back pain, the latter of which tends to be more interchangeable and related with neck pain and shoulder pain.Regardless of what type of back pain you have (lower back or upper back), a regular yoga practice can help alleviate it. With yoga, you challenge your muscles through a whole bunch of different positions, like twists and bends. And by moving in a wide variety of ways, you can help keep your muscles active, prevent them from getting weaker, and bring blood flow and nutrition to all the different muscles, joints, and tissues in your body, which can promote healing, says Harding.
As a child, Blair Braverman dreamed of being a dogsledder the way other kids aspire to be astronauts, movie stars, or deep ocean explorers. Growing up in Northern California’s Central Valley, where snow was a foreign concept, Braverman would nonetheless pull on rollerblades, tether herself to her golden retriever, and pretend she was mushing.“I loved being outdoors and I loved dogs,” Braverman, 34, tells SELF. “To me, being able to combine them seemed like magic. I didn’t understand why every single adult wasn’t a dogsledder.”After first learning about dog sledding, also known as mushing, through books—Braverman was obsessed with the story of the iconic Alaskan sled dog Balto at a young age—she moved to Norway at 18 to study the sport for a year at a “folk school” (basically, a specialized boarding school). Eight years ago, she competed in her first dog sledding race: The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race in Wisconsin. The snowy race is a 40-mile, two-day event with a six-dog team. Since then, Braverman has raced so prolifically that she says she lost count of how many she’s completed.But there’s one race that stands out above them all. In 2019, Braverman—who currently lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband and fellow musher, Quince Mountain, and 24 huskies—finished the prestigious and grueling Iditarod. In this annual 998-mile race across Alaska, contestants battle extreme conditions, including subzero temperatures, whiteout blizzards, and encounters with moose, bears, and bison. Dozens of mushers compete in each race, but not all finish: In fact, when Braverman competed in 2019, only 39 people completed the race, while 13 either withdrew or scratched during the race. Braverman and her team of eight dogs completed the Iditarod in a little under 14 days. (The record for the fastest time, which was set in 2017, was eight days, three hours, and 40 minutes.)When she’s not training for or competing in dog sledding events, Braverman chronicles her adventures in the wild through her work as a journalist, author, and Twitter personality. Her third book and debut fiction novel, Small Game, which came out November 1, encompasses “deeper reflection about what survival really means and what it means to be seen and to be watched,” says Braverman, who dreamed up the concept after she and her husband were contestants on the Discovery Channel reality show Naked and Afraid.It’s only fitting that she describes her first novel as a “survival story,” since survivalism is a theme in dog sledding, too—after all, participants must maintain utterly calm while enduring some incredibly harsh and dangerous conditions.Dog sledding, says Braverman, encompasses many factors: Athleticism, tolerance of cold, dealing with wildlife, sleep deprivation, physical strength, endurance, and most importantly, a connection with your dogs. As Braverman and her husband, who form the mushing team BraverMountain, look toward the upcoming dogsledding season—which typically starts to ramp up in the fall, though it spans all year long in some ways—Braverman shared with SELF the training tips that help prepare her for long-distance races.
If you’re short on equipment, that doesn’t mean you have to shelve your workout: This one-dumbbell workout shows you can work your entire body—you just need to employ some strategic programming.For instance, one-dumbbell workouts lend themselves to exercises where just one side of your body is loaded with weight. These types of moves, known as unilateral exercises, are especially great at helping you pinpoint and ultimately correct any strength imbalances you have from side to side.Now, most of us have some degree of imbalance from side to side, meaning one arm or leg is stronger than its counterpart. While minor discrepancies may be NBD, significant gaps can lead to injury since the stronger side can overstress itself by taking on too much work for the weak side. With unilateral moves, you can become aware of imbalances and correct them if needed, thus reducing your risk of injury and boosting your overall strength.Additionally, unilateral exercises are awesome for challenging your core. “The core has to stabilize when one side of your body is loaded,” ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF. Core stabilization helps keep your body upright and ensures it doesn’t tip over or fall to the side.With that in mind, Fagan created the below one-dumbbell workout for SELF that’s loaded with unilateral exercises—as well as one bilateral move, since there are also benefits to working both sides of your body at the same time. Together, these five moves will work your entire body and seriously fire up your core.This routine is intended to be performed with a medium weight dumbbell (think: 10 to 20 pounds), and as a result, the rep count varies between the moves. That’s because when you’re working with just one weight, the appropriate number of reps will really depend on which exercise you’re doing and the muscle groups it engages.For example, in this workout, the weighted glute bridge has the highest number of reps since it’s an exercise that hones in on your glutes, which are a super-strong muscle group that can handle a lot of load, says Fagan. It’s also, like we mentioned, the only bilateral move, which means both sides of your body are helping to power the move, thus increasing the load you can take on. The single-arm overhead press, on the other hand, has a much lower rep count since it’s primarily a shoulder move, and your shoulders are a much smaller muscle group.Of course, the rep ranges provided below are just guidelines, says Fagan. If you’re doing a move and feel like it’s too much for your muscles or you’re feeling it in other areas of your body, back off. “Always make sure that your form is on point,” says Fagan. “Don’t sacrifice form for repetition.”You can do this workout two to three times a week, so long as you pencil in a day of rest in between workouts so your muscles have time to recover. Also important: Take a few minutes to warm up before getting started so your body is properly primed for the work ahead. Moves like striders, 90/90 stretch, dynamic adductor stretch, frog stretch, open and closed book, and pull-aparts can do the job, says Fagan.The WorkoutWhat you need: A medium-weight dumbbell, between 10 to 20 pounds. If you have a wider range of dumbbells available, you may want to have them on hand in case you need to scale certain moves up or down. You’ll also need a workout bench or other study, raised surface for the bird-dog row.ExercisesSupersetReverse lungeSingle-arm overhead pressTrisetBird dog row on benchWeighted glute bridgePlank pull-throughDirectionsFor the Superset, complete each exercise for the prescribed number of reps, going from one move to the next without resting. Rest 1 minute after both are done. Complete 3 rounds total.For the Triset, complete the prescribed number of reps for each exercise without resting between moves. Rest 1 minute after all three are done. Complete 3 rounds total.Demoing the moves below are Sarah Taylor (GIF 1), a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Toronto; Nathalie Huerta (GIF 2), coach at The Queer Gym in Oakland, Jowan Ortega (GIF 3), a personal trainer, sports performance coach, and partner at Form Fitness in Brooklyn; and Shauna Harrison (GIF 4-5), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF.
From carrying groceries to putting dishes away to picking up your child, your arms work hard to get you through life. With a dumbbell biceps workout, you can give them the attention they deserve.Your biceps brachii, known as your biceps, is the muscle on the front of your upper arm. It contains two “heads,” or parts. The “short head” is the inner part of the muscle that’s closest to your body, and the “long head” is the outer part, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF.A good biceps workout will include different biceps exercises to target different parts of the muscle. A wide-grip biceps curl, for example, places more emphasis on the short head, while a close-grip curl places more emphasis on the long head. A regular biceps curl, by contrast, works both heads of the muscle fairly evenly. With all three variations, you’ll be hitting the biceps in each, “but you’ll hit one part of the muscle a little bit more compared to another variation,” says Fagan.This variety is important. “You always want to have different variations of a certain exercise because it just hits the muscle fibers a little bit differently,” says Fagan. And by hitting the muscle fibers differently, you can promote full development of the muscle and stability of the joints while reducing your risk of injury, she explains.The below biceps routine, which Fagan created for SELF, includes both a wide-grip bicep curl as well as a single-arm, regular grip bicep curl. It also features two variations of the row, a classic upper-body move that works your biceps as well as your back. While a row is a compound movement that works various larger muscles, your biceps play a big role in assisting the move.Importantly, two of the four moves in this workout are single-arm or unilateral, meaning just one arm is working at a time. Compared to double-arm or bilateral exercises, where both arms are working together, single-arm exercises demand more core stability, since your core muscles have to engage in order to keep your spine from rotating. So while single-arm moves mostly target your upper body, they also squeeze in sneaky work for your abs and other core muscles as well.Another benefit of single-arm exercises is that they allow you to challenge your muscles more. “You’ll always be able to hold more weight on one side compared to when you do both at the same time,” explains Fagan. At the same time, double-arm exercises, like traditional rows and curls, are important too for overall functional strength, which is why this routine includes two double-arm moves as well.The below routine works well as a finisher to a cardio session, a lower-body workout, or an upper-body push workout that’s focused on the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It could also be a standalone workout on days when you’re really tight on time, says Fagan. In that case, just know it would be considered more supplemental strength work, rather than a super comprehensive upper-body routine, since it focuses on just the biceps and back. A more well-rounded upper-body routine, Fagan explains, would hit the chest, triceps, and shoulders in addition to the back and biceps.
After running a race, it’s tempting to fold yourself into the nearest chair and stay there until your legs say otherwise. But allowing time for some quick stretches before plopping down can be super helpful.For one, gentle movements like stretches can help lengthen the muscles that you just worked during your run, including your hamstrings, quads, calves, shoulders, and neck muscles. By stretching these muscles—which tighten during work—you’ll give them much-needed relief and prepare them to go hard again the next time you lace up, physical therapist Brando Lakes, DPT, co-founder of Kinesadelic in NYC, tells SELF.Stretching will also help you feel better in the aftermath of your race, or after any run, really—think: less stiff and achy. Moreover, stretching the back of the leg from the knee down specifically can help reduce your risk of common runner ailments such as calf strains, Achilles tendinopathy (which causes pain in the back of the leg or above the heel), and plantar fasciitis (which causes pain in the bottom of the foot toward the heel), says Lakes. And stretching the front of the leg, from the hip to the knee, can reduce your chances of developing hip flexor strains (causing pain in the front of your hip), runners knee (pain in the front of knee), or IT band syndrome (which can cause pain on the outside of the knee or hip), he adds.In short, there are several compelling reasons to stretch after your race, and the good news is, you don’t have to make stretching into a huge, complicated production. That’s why we have a simple, three-move sequence that you can easily do after your next big race. The below routine, which Lakes created for SELF, will bring relief in key areas, including your quads, hamstrings, calves, and upper body.You don’t need any equipment to perform these quick stretches, and all of them can be done without sitting or lying on the ground, making this an easy sequence to do in public. Another plus: This sequence can double as a warm-up before your next run, says Lakes, so long as you do dynamic versions of the stretches instead of holding fixed positions.Do the following quick stretch routine soon after your race or run. Hold the stretches for the time suggested below, or as long as they feel good. Remember, stretching may not feel super pleasant, but it should never feel painful.Quick caveat: Depending on how far you ran and at what intensity, the following sequence may not be enough of a cool-down for you. Nevertheless, it will still do you some good, and can even hold you over until you have more time for a more comprehensive stretch. Every bit of stretching counts!The Stretch RoutineWhat you need: Nothing—no need for a mat here.The StretchesStanding dynamic hamstring stretchLunging hip flexor stretchOverhead triceps and shoulder stretchDirectionsHold each stretch for the recommended amount of time or reps, then go directly into the next stretch.Complete one round total. Feel free to repeat as needed if you have a little more time!Demoing the moves below are Grace Pulliam (GIF 1), an aerial yoga and Vinyasa yoga teacher in New York City; Jessica Rihal (GIF 2), a plus-size yoga instructor (200-HR) and a strong advocate of fitness and wellness for all bodies; and Caitlyn Seitz, a New York-based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter.
When you don’t have much time or exercise equipment at your disposal, it can be tough to squeeze in a workout. No worries, though: We’ve got an awesome kettlebell circuit that will hit your entire body in just 20 minutes—no fancy machines required.This five-move routine is super efficient and functional, in part because it targets your whole body instead of honing in on just a few muscle groups. Full-body training tends to be a more functional way of training, since so much of day-to-day life—from walking the dog to carrying a basket of laundry to wrangling a squirming toddler—involves lots of different muscle groups working together simultaneously.“I personally always do a full-body workout,” certified personal trainer Alicia Jamison, MA, coach at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. These full-body workouts can deliver a good bang-for-your-exercise buck since many times they involve compound moves that work multiple muscle groups at once—meaning, you don’t need to do a whole bunch of exercises to hit all those muscles.The following full-body kettlebell circuit, which Jamison created for SELF, is especially efficient because it alternates between upper-body and lower-body dominant exercises, which gives half of your body time to actively recover while the other half works. This cuts down on the overall workout time because you don’t have to rest as much in between moves, says Jamison.Another plus of this routine? It can build well-balanced, total-body strength, thanks to moves like the renegade row and Romanian deadlift that target your posterior chain (backside muscles) as well as exercises like the chest press and forward lunge that fire up your anterior chain (frontside muscles). Think of a muscle, and it’s pretty likely that this workout targets it: You’ll hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes in your lower body, as well as your back, biceps, chest, shoulders, and triceps in your upper body. Your core will also be working too, not only in the sit-up to press—what you may consider an “abs exercise”—but also in the other movements as well, as it fires to keep you steady as you lunge, hinge, row, and press.Want to give this full-body kettlebell workout a try? Just make sure you do a quick warm-up first so you don’t jump in with cold, tight muscles. Taking five minutes to do moves like the world’s greatest stretch, single-leg glute bridges, and monster walks with a mini-band can do the trick, says Jamison.With that, let’s head into this awesome kettlebell circuit that will smoke your entire body in just 20 minutes. Here’s everything you need to know.The WorkoutWhat you need: Two sets of kettlebells: one light set for the chest press, renegade row, and sit-up to press, and one medium set for the alternating forward lunge and Romanian deadlift. If you don’t have kettlebells, use dumbbells instead. You may also want an exercise mat for comfort.ExercisesRomanian deadliftChest pressAlternating forward lungeRenegade rowSit-up to pressDirectionsPerform each move for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds before moving onto the next exercise in the circuit. After all five moves are completed, start again from the top. Try not to take extra rest in between rounds (though of course take breaks as needed if you feel like your form is slipping or you can’t catch your breath).Complete the circuit four times total.Demoing the moves below are Angie Coleman (GIF 1), a holistic wellness coach in Oakland; Salma Nakhlawi (GIF 2 and 4), the founder of StrongHer Girls and is a strength coach; and Amanda Wheeler (GIF 3 and 5), host of the Covering Ground podcast.
From running to walking to climbing stairs, a whole lot of life happens on one leg. That’s why it’s helpful to include single-leg exercises in your workout routine, especially if your goal is well-balanced, functional strength.Single-leg exercises are crucial for achieving that, Ava Fagin, CSCS, sports performance coach at Cleveland State University, tells SELF.Also called unilateral exercises, single-leg exercises are movements that are performed with the strength of just one leg. Compared to bilateral exercises (like a squat or deadlift) that require both legs to be working simultaneously, single-leg exercises (like a lunge or split squat) demand more balance and stability. They also, like we mentioned, more closely mimic everyday life, which makes them a super-important, functional component of pretty much any exercise routine.Ahead, everything you need to know about single-leg exercises, including their benefits, how to work them into your strength training routine, and what to do if you notice a strength imbalance between legs—which, we’d just like to point out, is completely normal! We also rounded up 11 great single-leg exercises that you can try out in your own workout program.Why are single-leg exercises so important?Single-leg exercises are really functional. That’s because they strongly parallel daily life (and most sports, too) which means regularly doing single-leg work can help you move more efficiently and with less risk of injury in tons of scenarios.Single-leg exercises also demand balance and stability, which translates to core engagement, since your core muscles are vital in keeping you steady and avoiding tipping to the side or folding over. So while single-leg moves primarily work your lower body, they also deliver sneaky work for your abs and surrounding core muscles, too.Another benefit of single-leg exercises is they can help you identify asymmetries that exist from side to side. Now, most of us have strength imbalances between our legs, meaning one leg is stronger than the other, says Fagin. And while these imbalances occur naturally, it’s a good idea to work to improve them since significant strength differences per side can lead to injury. That’s because the stronger side can overcompensate for the weaker side and end up taking on too much stress.And one way to effectively address imbalances? Yep, you guessed it: single-leg exercises. “Single-leg exercises really do allow us to even things out,” says Fagin. (More on how, exactly, they do that in a minute.)How can you use single-leg exercises in your workout routine?Fagin suggests incorporating single-leg exercises alongside bilateral exercises every time you lift weights or do other forms of resistance training. “I would err on the side of strength-leg work as much as I can,” she says.In a workout of five lower-body exercises, for example, Fagin suggests doing three single-leg and two bilateral moves because “single leg work really is that important,” she says. That said, bilateral exercises, like squats and deadlifts, are important, too, which is why you don’t want to spend all your time doing single-leg work. As with many things in exercise (and life!), balance is key.