Whether you have a specific fitness routine or not, stretching is an important part of any workout, as it helps you keep your muscles strong and healthy. That’s why we’re offering some of the best tips to help you get started.
Stretching is an amazing recovery tool for muscles, tendons, and joints. It also promotes toxin disposal, improves blood flow, increases mobility, and relieves pain caused by prolonged sitting. It’s best to stretch immediately after you work out because your muscles are still warm. However, you can stretch any time, provided you take some precautions.
Stretching is one of those activities you should really take slow. Be patient with yourself—you won’t become more flexible overnight. You might often feel like your progress has taken a wrong turn or you’ve reached a plateau, but just keep working at it. Always allow your body to open naturally, without forcing it.
Take your time with each exercise and give yourself at least 30 seconds before transitioning to the next. Relax once you establish your stretching pose and give your brain enough time to get the impulse from the muscle and to connect.
Proper breathing is extremely important when stretching, as it brings more oxygen to the area you’re actively working on, and thus, improving the overall effect. Your breath should dictate your stretch in terms of duration and intensity.
When inhaling, your body opens up and extends; when exhaling, your body is closing as you move deeper into the stretch. The longer you extend your in- and exhales, the longer your stretch should take.
Start by counting to four as you inhale, finish opening and growing, and then count to four again as you exhale and get deeper into your stretch. Over time, you’ll be able to count to five, six, or even eight. You’ll get more comfortable with holding your stretch for longer periods over time.
The intensity of your breath can also help you push through even the most uncomfortable stretches. Some areas of the body are harder to work on than others, so use your breath to relax yourself and your muscles will follow, helping you stretch more efficiently.
If there’s one golden rule in stretching, it’s that there should never be any pain associated with it. Discomfort? Sure. Soreness? It’s common. Trembling? Sometimes. But, pain? Never.
If you’re getting deeper into your stretch and start feeling painful sensations of any kind (sharp and shooting, or dull), stop immediately and take a step, or two back. Pain is a signal you’ve gone a bit too far and pushed yourself over your current limit. It doesn’t mean your body will never get past that limit, but it does mean that now is not the time.
Pushing through pain is how people injure themselves. Taking a step back, however, will ensure your body can properly relax into the stretch, so you can continue to work toward increasing your flexibility level. The more your body can relax, the easier and more comfortable stretching will be.
Stretching is a very important part of any post-workout recovery routine. That’s why it’s crucial that you remain focused while doing it. Many people like to distract themselves from the uncomfortable sensations by scrolling on their phones, watching TV, or even reading a book.
However, this distracts you from your breathing and completely disconnects your mind-body link. It can also lead to sudden jerks or movements, which could potentially cause injuries or strain. Instead, always pay attention to your stretching routine and let your breath guide you through it.
Almost everyone has some discrepancy when it comes to the flexibility levels of the left- and right-side of their body. Let’s say your left hip is slightly more open. If so, stretching should feel better on that side. You can probably even feel yourself relax in a forward fold over your left leg.
Your right side, on the other hand, feels tighter. The stretching of your hamstring feels hard without the support of your hands, and you might feel some discomfort when folding over.
It comes as no surprise that the majority of people in this situation would want to stretch their left leg a bit longer, as it simply feels better. Consequently, they’d want to spend less time stretching their right side because it’s uncomfortable.
However, this can lead to an even bigger discrepancy later and, potentially, cause even more serious problems down the road. Rotation of the hips, scoliosis, and other misalignments of the spine can result from this. It can also cause a shift in the weight of the stronger leg, and a weakening of the muscles in the other.
When it comes to stretching, symmetry is key. Always aim to stay in your stretch for the same amount of time on both sides. It’s also a good idea to occasionally work the weaker side a bit harder and remain in a stretch longer to make it more equal with the other side.
There’s no magic pill or, in this case, magic pose, that will increase your flexibility overnight. The only approach is to remain consistent with your stretching routine. If you do, eventually, you will see results.
How often you stretch will depend on your schedule and workout routine. If you can, however, try to incorporate at least 10-15 minutes of stretching, two or three times per week. If you do, you should start to notice a huge difference in just a few months.
Stretching is an important part of any workout routine and should never be skipped. If you keep these tips in mind and avoid the most common mistakes, it won’t be long before you see some real results.