Sure, you may walk or run regularly, hit the gym every other day or attend the occasional fitness class, but is your fitness program truly complete? Not without stretching it isn't! Stretching is a necessary component to any wellness routine regardless of your activity level. Without a good stretch before and after your workout you run the risk of serious injury.
Non-stretchers may also find themselves bulking up instead of trimming down and, as a result, losing valuable range of motion benefits. Lack of flexibility can affect your posture, causing tight hamstrings or hip flexors that will pull your pelvis out of its natural alignment. This can lead to long-term lower back strain and spine issues.
The good news is that stretching is easy and it can be a great way to relax. There are limitless ways to stretch: standing up, lying down and with or without the assistance of a wall, ball or exercise band. As with any exercise, there are also many ways to hurt yourself if you're not careful! Be sure to practice "safe stretch" and use some of these helpful tips to guide you on your way to becoming more flexible as you enhance your workout along the way.
DO: Be sure to stretch 8-10 minutes before AND after your workout, no matter what you're doing.
DON'T: Skimp on stretch time. You should hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds, starting with small range of motion and deepen it as you go. Quick stretches simply aren't worth your valuable workout time.
DO: Take it easy before your workout. You'll find that your muscles will naturally loosen with activity and you will have better flexibility after you've been moving for a while.
DON'T: Stretch past the point of discomfort. Flexibility does not happen overnight. Stretching should not be entirely comfortable, but it should not be painful either. The last thing you want to do is pull a muscle!
DO: Breathe during your stretches. Your muscles will slightly relax as you oxygenate them. Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you slowly deepen the stretch with focus and control.
DON'T: Bounce into your stretches. Find your position and hold, then take it further with slow, even breaths.