Stretching is an important part of exercise. Yet, so many people ignore it, because they just want to get their workout over with and it is so easy to cut out. I hear this a lot from clients, ‘I know I should stretch, but I usually just skip it.’ or ‘I can’t be bothered.’ Many don’t understand that stretching not only enhances and supports your exercise regime, but it truly helps your muscles to stay balanced and healthy for every day living. Even when we aren’t doing formal exercise we are moving and working our muscles all the time in our work and home lives. Our muscles can become fatigued and then strained from what we do at work and at home. Many of us do the same thing every day at work and that can lead to repetitive strain and tension in muscles. When muscles become strained they get short and tight. When this happens, our range of motion decreases, which leads to decreased blood circulation in the area, we have more aches and pains in the muscles, the possibility of injury increases. The end result is that we hurt more and have less energy for our work and home lives. Not good.
Add stretching to your workout. Never stretch when your muscles are cold. If you choose to stretch at the beginning of your workout, please wait until after you have done your warmup. The warmup will get the blood flowing, so that when you stretch your muscles will be warm. Keep the stretching to a minimum at the beginning of your workout. Save most of your stretching for the end of your workout after you have cooled down.
When you do your stretching, you should hold the stretch until you feel pulling in the muscle. You should not have pain. During the stretch you may feel the tension in the muscle release, increase the tension in the muscle again to deepen the stretch. You should hold your stretch 20-30 seconds until you no longer feel tension. Over time if you would like to increase your range of motion the stretch can be extended to 60 seconds. Repeat the stretch 3 times.
Remember that stretching will:
1. Release muscle tension
2. Increase flexibility
3. Lengthen tight muscles to bring balance to the body
4. Improve mobility
5. Help prevent aches, pain and possible injury