Over the last ten to fifteen years, research has provided data-based evidence to support the use, or lack thereof, of stretching and flexibility protocols. We now “officially” know that stretching has a purpose, as it can improve your range of motion, increase muscle flexibility, and prevent injury – if done correctly – across multiple ages and population groups. BUT– as we mentioned back in week one of May, how can we take the behaviors and qualities we apply to our training and apply them to our life? First, let’s cover some tips for stretching our muscles correctly.
- Warm up first! Muscles stretch more easily when warm. So, whether you’re stretching to open your posture, to work out some soreness before a workout, stretching after a workout to prevent soreness, etc., give yourself five minutes of movement before stretching. For example, jumping jacks, kickboxing jabs and kicks, or a quick walk on a treadmill all can help to warm those muscles. After a hot shower is also a great time to stretch!
- Stretching can be uncomfortable, but should never be painful! Stretch only to the point of mild tension, never to the point of pain. If a stretch hurts, stop immediately; reset your position carefully, then try again! With time, practice, and consistency, your range of motion will improve.
- Breathe and pay attention to good form! Breathe comfortably while stretching or use yoga breathing. Whatever you do, do not hold your breath during a stretch. Your muscles and brain need the oxygen for safety and support. Furthermore, posture counts whether you’re sitting, standing, or moving. Good form translates to better gains in flexibility and less likelihood of injury when stretching tight muscles.
Just as we should practice stretching often, so should we give ourselves grace and practice flexibility in our daily routine. The best progress doesn’t just come from one stretch session every now and then OR allowing yourself an indulgent treat or rest day just as sparingly; it comes from consistently stretching, breathing, moving and fueling the body, and listening to what our mind and body needs on a daily basis. If you don’t incorporate manageable, achievable behaviors, you won’t successfully accomplish a healthy lifestyle. We’re on our wellness journey for the long haul, and moderation is key!
Visit ACE Fitness’, one of the industry’s leading health and fitness organizations, website for additional stretching Do’s and Don’ts. Ask your doctor if you are under care for a specific medical condition or injury, and/or consult a Balanced Wellness coach as you begin or continue your stretching regimen in addition to your wellness journey.