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.
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.
It’s happening again: We’re moving toward that time of the year when the days are getting shorter and colder and the temptation to stay indoors, snuggled under a blanket, feels practically irresistible. And honestly, who doesn’t love a cozy day at home?Having said that, it’s exactly the time of year when a little movement can go a long way in reenergizing you and lifting your mood, especially if you get depressed in the winter or you’re already feeling stressed about the holiday season. To help you accomplish just that, we’ve put together an ultra-motivating playlist packed with upbeat tunes that are sure to get your blood pumping. Why? Because we know that once you hear that one song and push through the first (admittedly difficult!) minutes of a workout, it all gets easier after that.This playlist includes favorites from several SELF editors, so it’s an eclectic mix of pop hits, with a dash of indie rock and even a few ’80s classics. Whenever you need a little kick in the pants, you can pull it up and find one track that speaks to you—maybe “All These Things That I Have Done” by The Killers is exactly what you want, or you know that newer hits from Charli XCX and Rosalía will get you excited to move. And if you’re looking for sustained motivation, just keep this playlist going for your entire workout. Browse the songs below on Spotify or keep scrolling for the complete playlist. And remember: You’ve got this!ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Full playlist:“All These Things That I Have Done,” by The Killers“Timber,” by Pitbull feat. Ke$ha“I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John“Bang Bang,” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj“Me Against the World,” by Britney Spears feat. Madonna“Ain’t It Fun,” by Paramore“Let the Day Begin,” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club“Good Ones,” by Charli XCX“Doo Wop (That Thing),” by Ms. Lauryn Hill“Believer,” by Imagine Dragons“Pump It Louder,” by Tiësto feat. Black Eyed Peas“I Ain’t Worried,” by One Republic“21 Reasons,” by Nathan Dawe feat. Ella Henderson“Despechá,” by Rosalía“Latch,” by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith“Electric Feel,” by MGMT“The Wire,” by Haim“Take Your Mama,” by Scissor Sisters“Summer Feelings,” by Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth“The Man,” by Aloe Blacc“Everywhere,” by Fleetwood MacRelated:
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.
Fitness fans who enjoy quick HIIT classes as much as extra-long stretching sessions, listen up: The new Lululemon workout mat, on sale today, is the do-it-all, not-quite-a-yoga-mat you’ve been dreaming about. Lululemon yoga mats are widely regarded as some of the best yoga mats on the market so we’re excited to see a new type of workout mat from the brand. Made of durable, eco-friendly materials derived from recycled windshield wipers, this exercise mat from the yoga instructor-approved brand is made for high-intensity exercise. Like a standard, non-slip yoga mat, it has a textured, grippy feel that provides traction and stability throughout your workout, even if you’re making lateral movements. Unlike a yoga mat, it’s highly abrasion-resistant, so you can feel free to wear sneakers on it without worrying about damaging the top layer. And, for all those heavy sweaters out there, it even has a closed-cell construction to prevent moisture from building up and creating mildew.At six millimeters thick, The Workout Mat, as it’s officially known, is cushioning and shock absorbing, so you can feel nimble during cardio routines and supported during floor sequences. If you enjoy on-the-go exercise, don’t let that thickness fool you: Lulu designed this mat to weigh less than its range of yoga mats for easy portability. So, whether you prefer home workouts or the yoga studio, indoor settings, or the park, the Lululemon Workout Mat can come along in a tote or carrying strap. While you can use The Workout Mat for pilates or yoga practice (we bet its stickiness comes in handy for downward dog pose), don’t overlook the existing range of Lululemon yoga mats. There’s The Mat, a high-quality mat with a natural rubber base that yoga teachers recommend for everything from Yin yoga to vinyasa flows to sweaty hot yoga classes (don’t forget your yoga towel for the latter). There’s also the ultralight (Un) Mat and the packable Carry Onwards travel yoga mat, both of which are great if you need to commute with your mat.Whether you’re a yogi looking to try new workouts, a HIIT fan who’s worn out their standard rubber yoga mat, or someone shopping for the perfect yogi gift for their fitness enthusiast friends, the newly launched Workout Mat from Lululemon could be a worthwhile investment.Lululemon The Workout MatLululemonLululemon Carry Onwards Travel Yoga MatRelated:
You don’t have to read much about fitness before you inevitably start hearing about the magic of morning workouts. I’ve espoused this idea several times. I love starting my day with exercise, and I genuinely feel like it sets the right tone for the whole day. Part of that is because my hour of sweat is usually the only “me time” that I get these days. Another reason is that it usually puts me in a good mood (gets those endorphins pumping, right?) which means I face whatever challenges the day holds with a clearer head and (hopefully) a calmer attitude. Having said all that, morning workouts often feel a bit like eating kale. We know it’s good for us, but it just seems so damn hard sometimes. Over the years, I’ve learned that preparation is the key to success. In my bag of tricks: Putting out my clothes, sneakers, and headphones the night before so I can dress in the dark without thinking. Going to bed early (duh). Avoiding social media and emails until after my workout is complete. And making sure I’ve got a killer playlist queued up. That’s the idea behind this week’s lineup. The track’s on this list are all upbeat and have quick tempos—but they’ve still got just enough chill to help ease you into the day. I don’t need DJ air horn sounds at six in the morning, but I still need enough of a rhythm to motivate me to move (and not just relax in child’s pose for five minutes—which has happened). On this list, you’ll find remixes from Ed Sheeran and Anderson .Paak, and some go-to favorites, like Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Calvin Harris’s “Slide.” As with the other playlists I’ve created, there’s a rough order to this one (a few songs up front to ease you in), but you should feel free to skip around as you see fit. Check out the playlist on Spotify below, or keep scrolling for the complete track list. Up and at ’em, folks!ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Full playlist:
Having fussy shoulders can make upper-body workouts challenging. If traditional shoulder exercises like the overhead press cause shoulder pain or discomfort, you’re probably not going to want to target that muscle group often. That’s where a gentle shoulder workout comes in clutch, since neglecting your shoulders—and the muscles around them—is actually not the solution that you may think it is.That’s because strengthening key areas around your shoulder complex plays an important role in shoulder health and the ability to lift discomfort-free.Here’s how: Many times, shoulder discomfort arises due to mobility, stability, strength, or posture issues, Katie Andrews, PT, DPT, MS, physical therapist at Pace West Physical Therapy, tells SELF. A lot of us tend to be stronger in our pectorals (chest muscles) and biceps than in our rotator cuff (a group of four small muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint) and back muscles. This is often due to habits in day-to-day life, like the hunched-forward posture many of us fall into while staring at computers or phones, as well as gym routines that favor our frontside muscles more than those in the back.These muscle imbalances, combined with the limited shoulder and spinal mobility that lots of folks have, pull our shoulders out of optimal alignment. So when we head to the gym to do upper-body lifts like overhead and chest presses, we end up performing those moves with our shoulders in subpar positioning. This often results in the pain and discomfort we feel in our shoulders.So what can we do about this? Building strength in those muscles that surround the shoulder muscle, stabilize it, and help it move is vital. For instance, strengthening the rotator cuff can help alleviate shoulder pain and discomfort by ensuring the shoulder is properly stabilized as it moves. Strengthening backside muscles, like the rhomboids (which retract your shoulder blades), can make a difference, too, since that helps pull the shoulder into correct positioning and counteracts the ill-effects of poor posture.Andrews created the gentle shoulder workout below for SELF that hits on all of this. This four-move shoulder workout is ideal for people with shoulder issues: The routine doesn’t include any overhead pressing—a movement that commonly bugs folks with sensitive shoulders—and focuses instead on those exercises that may even help alleviate some of your shoulder pain. It’s a gentle workout focused on improving mobility and strengthening the small muscles that surround your shoulder, rather than a super-intense routine aimed at lifting heavy or hitting PRs.The exercises in this workout are gentle enough that you can do them five days a week, says Andrews. It’s also fine to do these shoulder moves every other day, she adds. (Additionally, if you’d like, you can keep doing other upper-body exercises, like bicep curls and triceps extensions, as part of your routine as well, as long as they don’t bug your shoulders.)Quick caveat: If your shoulder pain is bad enough that it disrupts your activities of daily living (say, it hurts to put on a shirt or wash your hair) or stops you from participating in things you enjoy (like sports), check in with a doctor or physical therapist before trying this routine. They can help determine the underlying issue, and ideally develop an individualized program to remedy your discomfort. (Here’s how to tell when you should see a doctor for shoulder pain.)