Monday, February 2, 2004

Fit for love

Stretching exercises, done together, can help couples get closer

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On Valentine's Day, as your thoughts turn to love, perhaps your body should make a few turns - in the form of stretching and bending - to enhance your love.

Exercising with your significant other allows "we" time, an opportunity to get in touch with your partner in the morning or at the end of a stressful day. Plus, the movements symbolize the give-and-take and daily flexibility of every successful couple.

Deborah David and sports medicine expert Paul Frediani offer breathing and flexibility exercises for couples in their book, SexFlex: The Way to Enhanced Intimacy and Pleasure (Hatherleigh Press; $16.95)

"Stretching with your partner re-centers your energy and your partner's so that you are more aligned - literally in touch with one another," Frediani writes.

The book contains more than 80 exercises, designed for a variety of stretches for each part of the body. The routine should include breathing exercises, stretching and a cool-down session of lateral and forward neck stretches and "the shrug," a movement of pulling up, tensing and relaxing the shoulders.

They recommend you try these at least twice a week.

Thanks to aerobics instructors Stephen Blackwell Jr., 35, of Northside and Blake Brown, 38, of Pleasant Ridge for demonstrating these techniques.

Peach picker
(Brandi Stafford photo)
Peach picker

Stand next to each other with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Keep your abdominals and gluteals tight and don't arch your back.

Reach your inside arm toward ceiling and arch away from your partner as your outside arm reaches for your partner's outside hand. Hold for 5-15 seconds and release.

Return to starting position and reach your outside arm toward the ceiling, arching toward your partner. Your inside arm should reach across your body. Hold for 5-15 seconds and release.

Alternate sides and do each side 3-6 times.

Do this simultaneously with your partner.

For a deeper stretch, bend your knees more.

Breathing exercise

Sit back to back, eyes closed, with your feet on the ground and your knees slightly bent or crossed in front of you.

Breathe normally and feel your partner's back expand and contract with each breath.

Your partner should also feel your breath entering and leaving your body.

Do this for 2-3 minutes, staying connected with your partner's breath.

Feet-to-feet triangles
(Brandi Stafford photo)
Feet-to-feet triangles

Sit on the floor, facing each other, with legs straight and apart, and the soles of your feet touching your partner's. Keep your spine straight and abdominals tight.

Hold on to each other's wrists as you lean back while your partner leans forward. Hold for 5-15 seconds.

Return to starting position and reverse direction. Do this 3-6 times.

If you are not flexible, bend your knees and work at your own level.


This is an advanced exercise. Make sure you have some flexibility in your hamstrings and lower back before attempting this exercise.

Sit facing each other, knees bent. Place the soles of your feet against those of your partner. Keep hands down at the side of your hips.

Each of you should lift both your legs together to form a bridge.

Hold 5-15 seconds and return to starting position. Do this 3-6 times.

To increase intensity, hold hands with your partner while lifting your legs.

Willow tree

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed. Head should be held straight.

Cross your inside foot in front of your outside foot. Link your arms with your partner's and interlace fingers, bringing your hands over your head with palms facing the ceiling.

Arch inward until you feel a stretch on the outside of the body. Hold for five to 15 seconds, then release.

Return to starting position. Switch places with your partner so you can both stretch the opposite side.

Do 3-6 times on each side, keeping your abdominal muscles tight.

To increase intensity, press arms backward while keeping them over your head.

Standing squats

Stand back-to-back, placing your feet about two feet away from each other and interlock your elbows.

Bend your knees until you are in a seated position, thighs parallel to the floor. Do 10-20 times max.

To increase intensity, hold seated position for about three seconds before returning to standing position.

Seated row

Sit facing each other, legs in front of you. Place your legs over your partner's thighs. Hold each other by the wrists. Keep your back straight and shoulders down.

Slowly, pull your partner forward and then have your partner pull you forward. The person being pulled should offer slight resistance.

Do 10-20 pulls in each direction.



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