Feeling tired and stiff in your body? There are so many reasons why we feel like this. Lots of sitting, a level of background stress, lack of circulation to name a few. When I feel like this, it is overwhelming. It’s hard to get moving and I feel like I need a big workout to feel better. This means a lot of time, which I often don’t have! This can often add more stress, knowing that you can’t make the time for what you need, and the tiring cycle of stress continues! But I am a Pilates teacher so I have to find ways to get movement into my day. And I have learned that small moves can add up to give you big results.
In this blog we will explore what is going in our bodies (and minds) when we feel tired, stiff and sore and what we can do about it. Then we go into exercises you can do when you are feeling tired, stiff and sore to feel better quickly. We will discuss frequency and how to approach building a new habit and how to monitor your results over time, so you know you are feeling better!
Why am I tired, stiff and sore?
When we feel tired and stiff there are two major things going on. We aren’t getting enough blood circulation and we aren’t getting enough oxygen. The good news is we can change these two things in our bodies very quickly! And if you are not a person who loves to run up and down the stairs I have other ideas for you.
Shallow breathing is a major cause of tiredness during the day. If you are spending hours sitting at a desk, or in meetings, it is likely that your ribs are not moving much so your lungs are not expanding properly and you are not getting enough oxygen. When you are in this state going into high intensity exercise doesn’t necessarily move you into a deep breathing pattern, although it can. I prefer to include some specific rib mobility drills throughout my day or during my exercise warm up to get my deep breathing pattern back.
Lack of blood circulation can be another major cause of tiredness during the day. When our blood is moving more slowly around our bodies this in turn slows our lymphatic system. Pilates exercises are designed to maximise your circulation to clean your blood.
“As a result, the bloodstream carries and discharges from your system more of the accumulated debris created by fatigue. Pilates exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies, particularly to the very important capillaries which ordinarily are rarely ever fully stimulated once we reach adulthood.” Joseph Pilates, Return to Life.
There are a number of conditions that can contribute to chronic tiredness such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue to name a few. If tiredness is stopping you doing the things you love, see your doctor for a check up.
What to do about it – mindset
If you are battling with feeling tired, stiff and sore regularly then it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge the mental strain of this. Our mind-body connection is present whether or not we are present to it. When we are caught up with ‘to do lists’, tasks, thinking through work issues or just overthinking things this can often impact on our breathing. Our breath is the most powerful way to reconnect to the present moment and to our bodies.
If you are in a habit of being over-busy, placing unreasonable demands on yourself to be super productive at work AND a great parent AND a good partner AND a good friend, then the best thing you can do is take a BREATH. I know it sounds simple, it is. Taking a moment to take a conscious breath is a powerful act. A breath brings you present in your own anatomy. A breath gives your blood what it needs to nourish your body. A breath expands your rib cage, taking pressure off your spine. A lot can happen with one breath.
The key mindset shift to know is
- Becoming present in your body is where you can turn your tiredness around.
- The beginning can be tiny (one breath) and still be effective.
What to do about it – movement
We know exercise is essential for physical and mental wellbeing. But what if you are not a huge fan of exercise? Or what if “exercise” feels like it will take too much time or require special clothes or be too hard or may cause injury. What if we swap out “exercise” for movement?
We all move everyday in all different kinds of clothes. Mostly though we don’t think about it. So what if you thought about taking moments in your day to move mindfully? That means you could do it in what ever you’re wearing. It could be short, as short as it needs to be and still help you feel less sore, tired and stiff.
When you sprinkle movement though your day it helps maintain your mind-body connection, it helps maintain your deep breathing pattern and it helps release tension. This all helps you to build strength through all your activities.
So if you are ready to move here are some ideas below, some are super subtle, some are an all over work out. There is one here you can do on a chair at your desk. Try them out and tell me your favourite. Each video has suggestions for different levels of mobility and strength.
Exercise 1 – Shoulder bridge / tendon stretch – spine stretch
This series give a few different levels. In all the exercises we are waking up the back of the body, particularly the back of the legs. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting and the front body get tight and the back body goes to sleep. This series is fantastic for balancing awareness and strength between the back body and the front body. This series also works the core muscles at the same time as the larger muscles of the arms and the legs. It’s an allover work out all at once. Keep your head lifted for tendon stretch variations. Enjoy…
Exercise 2 – Mermaid series
The mermaid series is an all time favourite Pilates exercise for many. It’s a lovely stretch that helps us to deepen our breathing. And it feels wonderful. The series presented here is modified to do on a chair so you can do it whilst working. It is also matched with a glute (or butt) stretch, because believe it or not a lot of sitting makes our glutes very tight. The more you can stretch them the better. Breathe deep with this one and let me know how it feels below in the comments.
How often do I need to move?
So, this should really be up at the top because it is important. Frequency matters! The more frequent the better. Humans have not evolved to sit still for hours at a time. Our bodies need to change positions regularly to maintain strength and flexibility. It is just as good (if not better) for your body to move mindfully for 6 lots of 5 minutes throughout the day than to do 30 minutes of exercise and sit for six hours straight.
This is where starting tiny comes in. It’s about training your brain to reconnect with your body often. Once you are wired to connect in with your body the moving will come more naturally. For more about starting tiny sign up below to join my FREE monthly ‘Tiny moves to feel good’ email coaching program.
I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, Pregnancy and Post-natal Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.