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Work Hard, Relax and Breathe Deeply by Ainsley Laing

So, you've just completed a really good heart pumping, muscle exhausting workout. You stretch briefly and into the shower. Another day's mission accomplished. But in the back of your mind, there's a nagging feeling that your workouts are missing something.

Now, if you are like me, you are overwhelmed with the "should do's" and "must do's" with regards to fitness (and I'm a fitness instructor!). Every week there's something new and the message seems to be that if we don't do it, we are not going to be the most fit we can be. What's a fitness buff to do?

Relax that's what! No I mean that literally. After an exhilarating workout, the body is hot, the muscles are stretchy and the mind is full of feel good chemicals...the perfect state for a few minutes of deep relaxation.

No time you say? Well, how about including deep breathing in your stretching routine? It adds no time to your stretch (after all you are doing it anyway, aren't you?) and really increases the oxygen to the muscles.

Over the last couple of years, since the advent of the popularity of mind/body (yoga, pilates etc.) exercise methods, I have started including some techniques into my regular classesand asked for feedback. After all, most of my clients are very busy people who want "all in one" workouts with results.

There's one popular technique that I found easy to implement that you can try. I must warn you in classes it's common for people to fall asleep doing this!

After you finish your workout and cool down (your heart rate is no longer elevated) try this:

Lie down on your back

Tell your whole body to relax and sink into the floor

Breathe in very slowly while counting to 7 slowly (think: 1 and 2 and 3 and...)

Breathe out slowly to the countof "7 and 6 and 5 and....to 1

Repeat the breath cycles 5 times to get the feel for it

Now begin your regular stretches using the same breathing technique

Hold each stretch for 2 or 3 breath cycles

Take note of how the muscles relax into the stretch with each breath cycle.

Wow! There's something really nice about how the body and mind feels after stretching and deep breathing. I find that when I concentrate on my breathing and stretching, there's no room in my brain for thinking about anything else - no worries allowed...

Next time you stretch, try it. It's a great way to teach your body to relax after a workout and to really improve your flexibility...both physical and mental!

Copyright 2006 Ainsley Laing, MSc. has been a Fitness Trainer for 25 years and writes exclusively Body for Mind eZine. She holds certifications in Group Exercise, Sports Nutrition and Personal Fitness Training. Click here to read other articles by Ainsley.