Let’s talk about STRETCHING!
Ahh just writing about it makes me want to grab my mat. I love stretching so much! But just like a lot of people, I didn’t always feel that way. This part of the workout is the one we skip the most. It’s the one we feel like we can just rush through or cut out altogether if we’re short on time (which umm feels like ALWAYS).
But stretching is just as important, if not MORE important, as the actual workout! It needs to be talked about more!
So here’s your sign that you need to go stretch. AFTER you read this 😉
What happens when you stretch?
The muscle – This can get super sciency, so I’m going to keep it basic (you can read the physiological details here if you want). When you stretch, some of the muscle fibers elongate. This is easier when your muscles are warm after a workout!
Stretching on a regular basis keeps the muscle from shortening due to tightness and tension. Less tightness means less pulling and tension on the joints. That’s what leads to a better range of motion.
Blood flow – when you stretch, your body sends more blood to the muscle. Things brings more oxygen and nutrients to the area you’re stretching to help with recovery!
Good feelings – stretching activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax. Your body releases endorphins when you stretch too, which make you feel gooood and might even help with period pain!
Why stretching is soooo important
Mobility is how freely and easily your body moves. It means having a good range of motion. Why is this important? Well first of all, just living your daily life! Better mobility makes it easier to walk up and down stairs or bend over to pick something up.
Mobility and posture go hand in hand! It’s common to spend A LOT of time sitting, which can actually shorten certain muscles in the hips and back over time. Not only does this mess with your posture, but it causes a lot of pain and discomfort. Stretching can help restore your posture and prevent other problems.
When tight muscles lead to poor mobility and range of motion, you’re at muchhhh higher risk for injury. Super tight muscles don’t extend as easily during movement and they’re actually weaker!
This means that something as simple as a jump or lunge could easily cause injury. But that can be prevented with stretching!
Better range of motion = better form. And good form is absolutely necessary to get stronger.
Being able to move freely also makes your workout more enjoyable, right? Because you’re not tiptoeing around areas you know are tight and less mobile. This also makes it much easier to build strength evenly.
It just feeeeeels good!
Let yourself relax into a stretch and just breathe. Trust me.
You’ll feel calmer, happier, and like a weight has lifted. Making a habit of stretching is amazing for stress relief and even better sleep!
When is the best time to stretch?
Stretching on a regular basis whenever you can is great, but here are some specific times when stretching is really beneficial.
Before a workout
Stretching before you workout looks a little different than after. You want to do dynamic stretches, which just means that you’re moving through the stretch instead of holding them for long periods of time. This warms up the muscles and joints that you’re about to work so they’re loose and ready to move! Here are some dynamic stretches you can do before you workout:
- Hip circles
- Arm circles
- Bodyweight lunges
- Spinal twists
After a workout
The juicy stretches come AFTER your workout. This is when you want to do static stretches, which means you get into a stretch and hold for about 10 to 30 seconds (longer if you want!).
After you workout, your muscles are nice and warm and pliable. Stretching now will help your muscles recover, increase range of motion and decrease tightness after your workout. Plus, stretching after a short cool down helps your body recover and your heart rate decrease back to normal.
Whenever feels good!
Stretching is honestly amazing any time of day. Any time I’m stressed or I’ve been sitting for a long period of time working, I try to get up and stretch for at least a few minutes. I ALWAYS feel better.
It just kind of wakes me up and picks up my mood and it feels therapeutic for my body. We all need to stretch more, so do it whenever it feels like you need it!
How to start stretching
Just like anything new, start small and start slow! A lot of people struggle with stretching because it feels a little… unproductive? You sit in positions that might not be 100% comfortable and you have to be STILL.
Sometimes it’s even hard for me.
We’re all programmed to be go, go, go, onto the next productive thing 24/7. Doing anything that requires stillness feels…awkward sometimes. So if you’re not used to stretching and you feel impatient or uncomfortable at first, that’s okay! Start with a short stretch and work your way up.
Focus on the right muscles. Ideally, we would all work on total body flexibility but I also know that’s not realistic for many people, especially if stretching is a new habit. So be intentional with the muscles you’re stretching before and after a workout. If you did a lower body workout, focus on the legs. After you work the upper body, stretch your arms and back. After a run, really get into the hips.
Know it will be uncomfortable, but NOT painful. It’s normal to feel a small amount of discomfort when you stretch. But if you ever feel pain, back off!
Change won’t happen overnight. This is like everything in fitness, right?! Stretching really does feel amazing in the moment, but you won’t see major change with your mobility after just one stretch sesh. You’re not gonna get into the splits after you do that Deep Stretch For Splits video once or twice. You have to stretch consistently, over a long period of time! After a few weeks, you’ll see a huge difference.
Need something to keep you motivated? Try my 30 Day Journey to Splits Challenge 😉
Or, start right here, right now with this video!