Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine; however, it is often overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making this a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.
Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and ultimately help your speed and posture later in life.
Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.
1. Stretch and Stretch Often
Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work or when we sleep, so we naturally need to warm our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time. For a mere ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.
2. Warm Up Muscles and Joints
Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slow and take your time. Attempting any exercise “cold” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimum results.
3. Gauge Your Tension
Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort. If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.
4. Avoid Bouncing
Bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point and remain steady. For a general rule of thumb, try to stretch between 10-30 seconds to avoid over-stretching. When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance.
5. Just Breathe
One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath. As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable and your mind focuses on your task at hand.
6. Vary Your Routine
While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, change your routine often so you don’t get bored. Oftentimes boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which in turn can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts or Pilates classes as they are great resources for finding new stretches.
7. Always Remember to Cool Down
Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.
Stretching is vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine. Stretching is a known way for relapse prevention for addicts because it makes their bodies feel good and gives them something to focus on when they are struggling. The same ideas can relate to stress in your life. The workout and stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.