(Irish Eyes, July 1998)
By Alison Benney
Being a tourist is hard work! After a grueling day of trekking through Roman ruins, Greek temples and Hibernian haunts, even the most fit sightseer will return to the hotel at night with tight calves, sore feet, an aching back and tired shoulders. Comfortable shoes, loose clothing and an ergonomically correct backpack help ease the strain, but taking an occasional break to revive your muscles can help to relax and re-energize your battered body.
Pick and choose from the following set of exercises for a 10-minute set of stretching and toning that will maximize the fun in your hard-earned vacation. If done in the morning, make it post-shower and coffee so that you are alert and your body is awake. “Gentle” is the keyword, but try to hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds, without bouncing.
Sore feet – While sitting or lying down, point the toes, then flex the foot, then point again. Gently rotate your foot in a circle, first in one direction then the other – not too far, or you’ll get a cramp. Massage the bottom of the foot by pressing your thumb and then fingernails up the length of the arch and around the side. Gently pinch the Achilles tendon and rub the toes, one by one. This is one exercise where a partner may be appreciated.
Aching back – If you have a chronic back problem, follow your doctor’s advice. If your back mainly gets sore after hours strolling through a museum, try these. Lie down on your back, keeping your head on the floor, bend your right knee and pull that leg in toward your chest. Use your arms to hold the leg there for 30 seconds, pressing the back into the floor. Then place your right hand and shoulder on the floor, and with your left hand, gently pull your right knee across the body and over the left leg. Turn your head to look back over your right shoulder (keeping both shoulders on the floor) and hold. Take some deep breaths and just relax into it for a moment. Come back to center and repeat on the left side. Afterward, do what comes naturally: extend your arms overhead, straighten out your legs, and reach long, with your fingertips and your legs pushing in opposite directions.
Note: The dreaded sit-ups, or abdominal curls, are excellent for building back strength and support. Doing a dozen or more a day isn’t too much to ask, even on holiday, and will also help you look good on the beach.
Tired shoulders – Standing, rotate your shoulders in small backward circles, then forward. Reach both arms high overhead and lift one hand higher, then the other. Lower the arms, reach them behind you and interlace the thumbs of each hand. Keeping your back flat and chest raised, lift your hands and arms up behind you, until you feel a nice stretch across the chest and shoulder blades. Hold, then relax.
For more tips on stretching and flexibility, pick up the excellent book by Bob Anderson, called Stretching. Bonnes vacances and bon courage!