This 30-Day Challenge Will Change The Way Your Body Moves

Photographed by James Farrell.
You’ve probably had those cold winter mornings when you awaken feeling stiff, and creakily stumble out of bed. Or those marathon desk sessions when you finally get up and feel like you can’t stand as tall as you could before you sat down. Unfortunately, it’s not just your imagination. “When we sleep, our body lays down cobwebs, which is why people are tighter in the morning,” says Ann Frederick, founder of the Stretch To Win Institute in Tempe, AZ and creator of fascial stretch therapy, which she’s used to keep Olympic athletes limber. “The body starts to glue together when movement doesn’t occur on a regular basis, like when you sit all day. If you don’t address it, it starts to become cumulative.”

Now, for some very good news: It’s actually pretty easy to address your stiffness. “It’s much quicker to develop and improve flexibility than cardiovascular or strength, and a new routine has an impact much faster,” Frederick says. Before you have flashbacks to trying to touch your toes in gym class, this is not your traditional stretching routine. Each of these four exercises has you moving through a range of motion, which is really what being flexible is all about. Not only that, they actually feel good to do — not painful or uncomfortable.

Read on to learn how you can get more fluid and flexible in just 30 days.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
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For each of these exercises, you’ll move on your breath — which is what the rep count refers to — with an inhale to prepare and an exhale when you move or exert. Each exercise should be done slowly and in a comfortable range of motion, which will likely expand as you do multiple breaths/reps. For each day, the number listed at the bottom of the box is the minimum number of breaths you should do for each exercise, but feel free to keep going until you feel open and happy. For the exercises that require you to do each side separately (glutes and shoulders), complete all of the breaths/reps on one side and then switch. Unlike other challenges, you won’t take days off; flexibility increases the more you use it. And yes, you can totally combine this with other workouts — it'll feel amazing (and enhance your fitness routine in other areas) but isn't necessarily a complete exercise regimen on its own.
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Front Body Release (“Front Body”)
This move opens the front of your neck, chest, and hips, with a nice shoulder and back stretch to undo the effects of prolonged sitting.

Start standing, feet hip width apart. Place your palms at the base of your back, fingers pointed down. On an exhale, shift hips forward until you feel a moderate stretch in the hips. Simultaneously open your chest by gently pulling elbows toward each other. Inhale, then exhale as you sweep your arms up overhead to create a crescent shape with your whole body. As you inhale, return to the start position. Repeat, increasing the range of motion as feels safe and comfortable.

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Photographed by James Farrell.
Fan Hip Mobility (“Hips”)
The swaying action opens tight hips using movement and gravity.

Sit on the floor and lean back, placing your hands on the floor to prop yourself up. With knees softly bent, and feet spaced about hip-width apart, slowly rotate the legs from the hips in a fanning or windshield wiper-like motion, back and forth. You’ll inhale as you move your legs and exhale as you let them drop. Don’t rush.
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Glutes and Low-Back Opener (“Glutes”)
The cross-legged position allows you to target the deep hip external rotators which get tight from sitting.

When seated, place the ankle of one leg atop the knee of the other, allowing the bent top knee to point to the side. With one hand on your foot and the other on the raised knee, exhale as you slowly roll your torso forward, leading with your chest. On the inhale, roll your torso back up, leading with your mid back. Repeat for the prescribed number of breaths, then switch sides.

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Photographed by James Farrell.
Shoulder Sweep (“Shoulders”)
This moving stretch broadens the chest and creates space in the shoulder joint, which gets compressed from hunching.

Lie on one side, with either a) knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other; b) top leg above bottom leg so it drops to the floor; or c) in corkscrew, top leg wrapped around bottom with foot hooked (shown). Your leg position may need to be simplified if the spine feels unstable. Start with your arms extended out in front of your chest, palms together. Inhale. As you exhale, slowly trace a circle on the floor with your top hand, arcing it up overhead and around. Go as far back as your shoulder will allow and then inhale as you return hand to start. Do all breaths/reps on one side before switching.

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