It’s so easy to fly through your workout and never take the time to stretch. Why? I think for most people it boils down to time. We’re always in a rush, so we want to spend our time on the things that will give us the most visible results. Why “waste” 10 minutes of your 30 minute block stretching? That’s not going to melt off the fat or rip that six pack. Right?
Well, sometimes we just need to get past the appearances. Remember, looking good is only part of why we exercise. We also want to feel good. We want a higher quality of life. And to truly achieve that, you need to make sure you’re doing stretches to increase flexibility.
4 Ways You Benefit from Increasing Your Flexibility
How Does Increasing Flexibility Help? Flexibility exercises can improve your quality of life by:
- Reducing aches associated with exercising–Powering through a full body workout? You’re probably going to be sore tomorrow. However, a bit of stretching can effectively reduce those aches and pains.
- Cutting the back pain–I hurt my back a few years ago doing an odd movement. Many doctor’s appointments later, I found that I had a bulging disk. Since then, stretching has helped my back pain tremendously. Conversely, when I forget to stretch, I notice the aches more.
- Reducing the risk of injury–While data is mixed on this claim, I think it’s fairly obvious that a flexible muscle is one that’s less likely to be hurt.
- Helping you relax–Are you tense? I am. Seems like every day something else is piling on to my plate, knotting up my back and shoulders. Stretching can help decrease the stress and tension. Especially if we’re talking about something like a calming yoga workout.
How to Increase Flexibility
So hopefully I’ve sold you on the fact that you NEED to stretch. But now you’re wondering, how? Should you just bend over, touch your toes, and hold? Well, not so fast. There are a few things you need to know:
- Warm up BEFORE you stretch–Prior to stretching, you want to use your muscles a bit. Flexing a cold muscle too hard can injure it. Warm up for 5-10 minutes first.
- Keep your warm up stretches moving–The days of beginning stretch, hold, wait, stretch, hold, wait are over. Data supports the idea that your stretches should be dynamic. Use slow and controlled movements, but keep moving.
- Use static stretches after your workout–After your workout, your body should be really loose. Now’s the time for stretching and holding.
- Hamstrings are most important–Tight hamstrings tug on your pelvis. The result? Lower back pain, one of the biggest problems most of us will encounter as we age. Keep them loose to try and avoid problems later (or now).
Woman stretching image courtesy of ambro / freedigitalphotos.net