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Complementary Fitness 20 November newsletter

Complementary Fitness Logo

Welcome to this week’s fitness newsletter – I hope you enjoy reading it & find it interesting


Stretching is one of the most important things you can do to improve our fitness.

While most people tend to focus mainly on muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance, stretching is an equally important component of fitness.


Stretching can improve physical performance, decrease injury risk, enhance mobility, increase blood flow to muscles to speed up recovery and combat the stiffness and inflexibility that comes from spending long hours sitting every day.

It’s important to take time before and after every workout to stretch, loosening up muscles and joints to improve mobility.


In our classes, we might do side stretches for the sides of the body: ie standing tall with arms by our sides, feet hip width apart and side bend so you reach your arm down that side of the body while stretching the other side of the body then repeat on the other side and repeat a few times.


One of the best ways I think to loosen off any tightness around the low back and hips is to stand with feet hip width apart and wrap the arms round the waist and behind the back – we usually do this right at the start of our Thurs and Fri fitness yoga classes.  It’s great for mobility and flexibility and to ease muscular tension.

If we have a stretching routine, we might then do some pelvic tilting exercises ie tilting pelvis forwards and backwards ie contracting abs in and tilting hips towards low ribs then arching the low back then maybe some hip circles.

Pelvic tilting can also be done on a yoga mat ie in ‘cat/cow’:

It’s a great stretch and back and abs strengthener if we’ve got back problems.  Of course, it can also be done regularly even if we don’t have back issues but want to improve our lower back mobility.  It’s easy to do: on all 4s on a mat, on hands and knees, arch your back upward as you exhale and you can look down to the floor or through your knees towards your feet.  Then transition through a neutral spine and curl it downward/extend the back so there’s a curve in the low back, as you inhale.  Repeat a few times to help to loosen the muscles all the way from your shoulders down to the hips.

Hamstrings and glutes tighten up because they aren’t engaged while sitting down, so long hours spent seated at a workstation or desk will reduce mobility.  If we don’t take the time to loosen up these leg muscles, we’ll find our posture is off, hips feel tight and the lower back has to compensate (not a good thing!).  So loosening up the hamstrings is important for facilitating smoother lower body movement.

Standing Quad Stretch will relax and increase blood flow to the lower body muscle group that ends up doing the bulk of the work when we squat or lunge.  Spending a minute on this stretch can also help to protect your knees and stave off knee pain and injury.  As I say in class, if your balance isn’t great, lightly reach your arm out towards a chair or wall.  In this quad stretch, I’m aiming my right heel to left glutes but you can bring your right heel to right glutes or do one after the other for a challenge.

Another great stretch that we do in our fitness yoga classes is the wide leg forward fold.

Standing in a wide leg position (wider than hip distance), hands can rest on the legs or hips and forward fold/bend from the hips.  This does amazing things to unlock mobility in the hips and with legs straight, it’ll give you extra stretching focused on loosening up those hamstrings and improving ankle mobility.

If we put these all together into a five-to-ten-minute stretching routine that can follow the sequence described above or add in other stretches that you feel you need.


On a different note, is this a stretch too far ie flexibility or reaching for the chocolate? Ha ha …


Cacao comes from beans produced by the Theobroma cacao tree and contains lots of beneficial compounds:

Firstly, did you know that cacao stimulates brain function?

It’s because it’s rich in magnesium which is good for reducing anxiety and stress.

It’s also rich in theobromine which can induce euphoria and positive mood.

Cacao contains theobromine which can enhance dopamine release and improve motivation levels.

We also recently talked about mitochondria (which are the powerhouses of each cell) and cacao can affect mitochondrial function.

How?  Well epicatechin, one of the flavanols rich in cacao, can supercharge our mitochondria.  As mentioned, our mitochondria is essentially the powerhouse of every single cell and must be nurtured every single day for good energy levels and fight disease.

Maybe a bit ‘technical’ but good to know that one of the most impressive research findings is cacao’s ability to rescue and restore mitochondrial function via increasing mitochondrial biogenesis (Ramírez-Sánchez et al., 2016).


When it comes to sports and athletic performance, theobromine present in cacao, acts as a mild stimulant dilating blood vessels in the lungs, leading to greater oxygen/co2 exchange.

Caffeine increases calcium release into muscle cells, which facilitates greater muscular contraction and force and epicatechin aids muscle growth.


For overall health benefits, performance and improving mood, quality matters so we’re not talking white, sugar laden chocolate etc but a high cacao content which can be in the form of cacao powder or cacao nibs or try to aim for a high percentage dark chocolate bar.

I love adding cacao powder to smoothies, cacao nibs on top of yoghurts and eat a couple of squares of ‘the dark stuff’ which for me, is organic and 85+ (sometimes, I treat myself to a bar of Vivani’s 100% ‘fully-leaded, hard-core variety’ which also has cacao nibs in it, yum).

Looking forward to seeing you and working out with you in our classes this week as always.

Easiest and best way that you can pay for classes:

  • With cash ie £6 per class (always best and I have change)
  • Directly into my bank account (if you don’t have my details, email me and I can give you my sort code & business account number).
  • Alternatively, using contactless directly to my iphone in class


Remember to let me know if you have any comments, news and keep me updated with anything that’s happening with you ie health-related stuff, goals, achievements etc.

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