Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not Just An Exercise Mat

I have this friend, Auntie Lisa, who went through hell after being diagnosed with cancer in her foot. When she got back from hell, she had to work really hard to overcome the damage that the treatment had done to her foot and by domino effect, the rest of her body. Years after her surgery, she is in fantastic shape and takes very good care of her body. Besides working out like a fiend and eating well, she stretches every morning. Every morning. Her stretch routine has become part of her day, just like morning coffee and playing with her dog.

I have often felt inspired when Lisa mentions her stretch routine in passing, and I think it would be good for me to have a morning stretch routine, too, since as I get older ("so much older, I long for those young boy days") my body is stiffer and more prone to extreme acts of failure without warning. As if inspiration from Lisa wasn't enough, Stewart has taken to doing calisthenics with the boys every morning in an effort to stretch and strengthen his bad back. And by "calisthenics" I mean trying to stretch or do jumping jacks or sit-ups while the boys hop around and sort of count and say "strrrrrretch!" and shove him out of the way. Someday I will video tape it and post it here. It's very cute in a frustrating way.

The third sign from the universe came when I logged onto my Sitemeter account a few weeks ago and saw an ad for G2 Stretch Mats. Normally I don't pay attention to banner ads, but this caught my eye because the idea of stretching has been on my mind. Not because of the half-naked, peacefully reclining man. No.

What struck me were the graphics printed on the mat that show you which stretches to do and how to do them. My biggest problem with sitting down to stretch out every morning has been running out of ideas. When I'm in yoga class, I don't have to think - the instructor just tells me what to do. That's how I prefer to exercise, quite frankly. When I think about it too much I get self-conscious and I don't enjoy it as much. I thought this mat with its helpful guide might help me stick with it, and so I contacted the company and volunteered to test the mat for a week and write about my experience.

G2 sent us a men's back stretch mat and a women's general stretch mat. I learned that - bonus! - the mats are "eco-friendly" and come with instructional videos. The women's mat comes in a plastic tube, so I guess you have to get past that to get to the eco-friendly part: the mat itself, which the site says is made of "Thermoplastic Elastomer," which isn't quite plastic and isn't quite rubber, so it keeps the properties of rubber but can be recycled. Despite what the website says, the smell of the material is pretty strong, especially if you store it in the plastic tube, which I have stopped doing, and that is making the new-rubbery smell go away. In the end, the tube itself can be used for other things.

Stewart and I both started whipping out our mats every morning. We followed the graphics, which are pretty clear, and the poses seem fairly obvious. Each one tells you how many seconds to hold it, or how many repetitions to do.

Inevitably, one or both of our children will join in, either enhancing or inhibiting the experience. It's hard to do a lunge stretch with a 35-pound toddler on your knee. Then again, he increases the resistance.

A few poses on the women's mat confounded me, however, so I went to the special secret website to which you are given access when you purchase a mat. (Paula Abdul greets you with a smile! Another bonus!) Instructional videos have been uploaded to demonstrate some of the poses - they only feature a man but the men's routine is the same as the women's. I remain confused about how to do a few of neck stretches, so I just skip them now. I'm happy to have added the "slide glide" to my routine, an exercise in which you stand a few inches from a wall, and lean on it with your shoulder. You dip your hips to the wall and then back again for 15 repetitions. It feels good, like I'm doing work, but it's not hard.

On a daily basis, Stewart says "I really like my mat." This is a big deal because he rarely says such things about a product. He has gotten into a great routine and loves having the kids hop all over him. He tells me that he sticks to the stretches he likes and holds the poses for his own preferred length of time. The graphics inspire him to continue, even if he ignores some of them, and he manages to get a 15-minute session in every morning.

Overall I am very happy with my mat because it inspires me to keep my body moving and I can actually see results from just a week or of daily use. Going through the full routine in the illustrations takes about the same amount of time as one episode of "Go, Diego, Go!" so it's a family activity, not something for which you have to sneak away and use up precious alone time. Plus, the mat rolls up nicely and comes with a Velcro strap to keep it secure, so I can throw it in the car to bring with us on road trips. The men's mat is more manly, folding up and stored in a fabric bag. Each mat retails for about $50 which is reasonable considering that you get so much more than just a mat - you get motivation, too.

You know you want to try one. Which brings me to my next trick. I'm giving away your choice of of a mat from the G2 Fitness website! (Shipping to US address only.) Just leave a comment here with your contact info (if you're really fussy about not publishing your email address, I understand, you can email me with the button at the top of this page, but YOU STILL HAVE TO LEAVE A COMMENT) by 11:59 PM Pacific Time on July 1. I will choose the winner FROM THE COMMENTS at random and announce it on Thursday, July 2. I won't make you tweet the contest but if you do I will be grateful. ( @houseofprince is giving away Not Just an Exercise Mat

While this post is still in keeping with the "mommy blog" mentality of my overall content, I have partnered with Girl Get Strong, a kicky website community that has more of a wellness focus. It's run by three fantastic women who got my attention - where else - on Twitter, and provided a topical place to feature this product. This week they are featuring my G2 stretch mat experience and their own giveaway - squee! another chance to win one!

Now If I could have typed this post while stretching, watching "Go, Diego, Go!" and holding my kid, now THAT would be some serious multi-tasking.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED: From 58 qualifying entries, Elise's was chosen by as the winner. For what it's worth, she chose the green and pink yoga stretch mat. Thanks to all for entering!