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Stretch Past Your Comfort Zone

Personal trainer Theresa Rowe shares an easy stretch you can do anywhere

Man stretching in the rain
Credit: Geber86

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Day 2 of Guideposts’ 14-Day Fitness Challenge! We’re sharing stories that will inspire you to eat better and get in shape so you can feel your best. Today’s challenge is to stretch yourself –physically and mentally–past your comfort zone. If you’re just joining us, check out our previous challenges here.

I felt lost and alone most of my first year of marriage. I was 19 years old, far from home, with an infant daughter.

My husband took our only car to Air Force training school each day; I was stranded in our small apartment. There were no other military wives in our apartment complex. And Wichita Falls, Texas, was so hot you could have fried eggs in the shade!

So I stayed inside, watched soap operas, took care of baby Christina and ate. I gained 25 pounds and lost all contact with the outside world. My marriage was falling apart and I was terribly lonely. 

Looking back on those years, I see that I should have reached out beyond my comfort zone and found people to be with. I could have gone to church. I could have found a ride to the base and looked for a club, a new mother’s group, any way to connect with other women. But I didn’t. I was too young, insecure and afraid.

After a year in Wichita Falls, we were transferred to Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska. Things began to look up. Not only were there several military couples at our new apartment complex, but I began working at a steakhouse. It was my first job!

And another first—an acquaintance asked me to take an exercise class with her at the health club she belonged to. I was nervous about going, but when I found out they offered childcare, I pushed my fears aside and went. Soon I became a member.

For some reason, the classes there began to mean more to me than just a place to exercise. They made me feel like I had a purpose, like I was growing.

With the teacher’s encouragement, I began to reach for a new and exciting goal—to become certified as a fitness instructor. Not only did my body become flexible, it felt like my horizon was widening with brighter sunshine ahead.

These memories remind me that when we stretch ourselves emotionally, physically or spiritually, we shake off our stiffness, our distorted selves, and open up to the world and the people around us. 

Here’s one of my favorite stretches. Take it to just past your comfort zone, hold, then release. It’s easy to do at work, and it makes your back feel great.

Upper Back Stretch

1. Inhale and stand or sit straight, maintaining good posture, with your knees slightly bent. Place your feet hip-distance apart.

2. With your palms facing forward, exhale and extend both arms in front of you as far as you can reach with one palm resting on the top of the opposite hand.

3. Make sure to keep your shoulders down, away from your ears. Hold this stretch for 15–30 seconds as you feel the stretch in your upper back.

4. Repeat up to five times.

Watch Theresa’s stretching videos!

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