Everywhere you look there are active Movimento members doing strength routines, cardio routines, and exercising at home as well! We love keeping active, but do you ever have days where your joints hurt, your muscle soreness just won’t go away or that old back injury seems to be creeping up again? Are we missing something?
Your answer may lie in stretching. Indeed, stretching gives us that important link between active movement and sedentary life. It can determine the difference between performing your best, or waking up the next day with sore muscles. Perhaps you need to de-stress from life’s daily struggles, or increase range of motion in a particular area. Whatever the case may be, let’s delve into why and how stretching is paramount to your success!
First and foremost, why is stretching so important? For starters, because it relaxes your mind and “tunes up” your body, almost all of us should incorporate at least some component of stretching into our fitness routines. Stretching will reduce the muscle tension you may have accumulated in your strength routine, and help your coordination to achieve optimal movement patterns. Do you have a shoulder injury? Make sure you stretch the right muscles! Increasing your range of motion in the proper areas will help both your recovery and capacity to work as you re-build the weak spots. Avoiding injury is another benefit to consider – a strong, flexible and pre-stretched muscle will resist outside stresses better than a stiff, un-stretched one. Not only that, but it is just as important to maintain that flexibility as we age so that the body doesn’t become stiff and immobile. Lastly, many of us find ourselves in stressful or competitive work, family, and sport environments almost all the time. Stretching allows us to focus on loosening this strict control of the body and move for its own sake, rather than driven by competition or ego.
So we know that it’s important, but how do we do it? Begin with the basics! An easy starting stretch is one that starts where you feel a mild tension, and you hold for about 5-20 seconds. Again, you should relax when you first start out stretching. The next phase begins into what is called a developmental stretch, in which you move that muscle a bit more until you feel some more slight tension, and again hold for 5-20 seconds. If it feels painful, you have likely gone too far! While you are in these stretches, mind your breathing as well: deep, rhythmic breathes under your control are key to achieving your optimal stretch. In general, we look to exhale as we sink into the stretch, and inhale before we go into the stretch itself. Lastly, always let pain be your guide. If something hurts or becomes painful, you are likely either stretching too far or doing something wrong completely. Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your form!
The beauty of starting stretching is that everyone can learn how to do it! And unless you are unable to move from illness or injury, we can all learn regardless of age, current flexibility, or athletic ability. The first step comes in doing some digging and finding out which areas are chronically tight for you, what stretches will help you best, and which ones give you the most bang for your buck. With that in mind, asking your Movimento Trainer is a great first step in finding some recommended stretches! If you are looking for another great resource, the stretch cage here at Movimento is a fantastic visual piece you can utilize to your advantage on your own time before or after working out. For example, some days you may find your lower back and/or hamstrings are tight/extra sore etc. Find out what stretches will help, and do them consistently! Even on days that those muscles feel better, continually priming and loosening them will ensure that they feel better immediately and will also prevent further injury down the road. Make that stretch time for yourself, and you will thank yourself later! Again, part of this can be done at home and at work (not just Movimento), so you can plan this accordingly in your day. Perhaps you take a couple minutes to stretch after your shower in the morning, or you set aside 5 minutes during your lunch break to feel more limber and relaxed for the home stretch in the afternoon.
When we stretch, we are allowing ourselves to enter a state of peaceful relaxation and fine tuning. It really is all about you, and you have the choice of how much to do and what to do. Becoming connected with your mind and body is what stretching is all about, so make it a daily practice! You will find that as you learn more about your body and its needs, you will be able to develop your own personal potential as a whole and begin to build a foundation of fitness that will last you a lifetime. Remember, just like getting into the fitness routine, it’s never too late to start stretching– and we are here to help, every step of the way!