A few weeks ago, I attended my usual yoga class (after a brief hiatus) and had the weirdest feeling. When I moved into downward dog, my back was extremely tight. Something that had been so easy in the past was suddenly a huge challenge. I realized that when focusing on strength training, I had completely and totally neglected stretching… and now my body was feeling it.
I stretched every single day for a month.
My goal was to find relief from stiffness and pain, but became so much more than that. Committing to gentle movements and stretches seriously changed my body and my relationship with fitness.
Stretching has so many benefits
Most people stretch to become more flexible. As an ex-dancer, I already have some flexibility so that wasn’t necessarily my goal. Stretching also provides benefits like:
- Improving performance
- Decreasing risk of injury
- Improving your ability to do daily activities
I started my 30-day journey with the intention of adding small moments of movement into my life. During times when I’d find myself stationary for long periods of time, I stopped and gave my body relief through stretching.
Over the course of the month, I started to see stretching not as a part of my workout, but as its own separate form of movement. I tried all sorts of new moves that I hadn’t done before and became more in tune with what type of movement my body needed on a particular day.
No two days were the same
Some days, my stretching took the form of a 60-minute yoga session. On other days, it was a quick three-minute forward fold before bed. I listened to what my body needed (and what I had time for) and tried to tailor my movement to find balance between these two factors.
Time can be a huge barrier to working out. However, it’s pretty easy to incorporate daily stretches into your routine. I found myself doing standing quad stretches while waiting for my morning coffee to brew. Family movie night? I did some arm stretches while watching the show! I even sat in a straddle stretch while doing my nightly social media scroll. (I know I’m not the only one who falls into that TikTok vortex 👀).
@blogilates Been a while since I’ve stretched and it feels good to be back at it. If you’re looking to get into your splits, here are some things I do in my personal routine that you can try: 1/ I turn on the heater to warm up my muscles. Cold muscles don’t like to stretch. 2/ I wear socks on top of my @popflexactive vegan suede mat for easy sliding. The less friction, the easier it is to make tiny sliding movements. 3/ I start out with a very short, very light cardio routine like 10 squats and 10 lunges ea side to warm up my muscles. 4/ Then I do a very short, light Pilates routine targeting my legs to make sure blood flow is happening in those areas. Also stretching is as much about flexible muscles as it is about strong muscle (to hold the pose), so you NEED to do this! Single legged hamstring extensions x 10 ea Butt pulses x 20 ea Booty band bridge press outs x 15 5/ Massage your legs. I specially use my @therabody Theragun mini to massage my hamstrings and hips, which are my tightest areas. This bring more blood flow into the area and also helps loosen up my muscles. 6/ Now my splits stretching routine Pike x 1 min Butterfly x 1 min Hamstring stretch x 1 min ea leg Deep lunge x 1 min ea leg Half splits with booty shake x 1 min ea leg Now you can get into your splits! And once you feel like you have that, do your… 7/ Oversplits! I use blocks to add height! There ya go! Remember, go slow and take your time. Depending on your flexibility, this could take weeks, months, or even years. Do not push yourself too hard! You do not want to get an injury – and that usually happens when you’re trying to rush and get results. Your body needs time. GOOD LUCK! ♥️ Cassey #stretching #splits #flexibility #therabodypartner ♬ Morning with U – Tollan Kim
There are stretches for everything
Have a specific fitness goal? You can do stretches to destress after a busy work day. Or maybe you want to work towards being able to do the splits. Perhaps you were reading this article and kept thinking “I need stretches to relieve my lower back pain!” Those are easy to find too. There are so many different types of stretching, for whatever your body needs!
Just grab a comfy mat and get started!
I saw some serious changes
I was already pretty flexible thanks to my past as a dancer, so I didn’t have a huge transformation as far as how far I can stretch. However, I found that building a consistent stretching routine allowed me to hold slightly uncomfortable poses longer and relax into them more easily.
I also saw a huge improvement in how my muscles felt on a daily basis. The best way I can describe it is this; after stretching every day, my muscles felt like my brain does after coffee. They were awake and ready for anything! I felt lighter, less stiff, and more energized.
In the past month, not only did my body go through changes, but so did my mindset. I used to see fitness as “all or nothing:”
If I don’t have time to go to the gym for an hour, then it isn’t really worth it to work out at all.
If I don’t sweat, then it isn’t really a workout.
I have to be sore the day after a workout or I didn’t work hard enough.
These are things I used to tell myself. Now, I see that any form of movement can have a positive effect on the body. I don’t need to push myself to the limit every single time I set out to engage in physical activity.
Stretching is like the behind-the-scenes crew on a movie set. It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves and the show could not run without it!
Without stretching, our bodies are getting torn down, but not built back up. Doing gentle movements helps to warm up and cool down from our busy lives and take a moment to breathe and just exist in the moment.
Try this 30-Day Stretch Challenge!
If you need something to follow along, try the 30-day #JourneytoSplits challenge!
Live in your moment.
Feel like you can relate? How can you find balance by slowing down?