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7 Practical Tips For Stretching

7 Practical Tips For Stretching

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Don’t Forget…

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.

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Courtney Gordner

Courtney is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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