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Stretches for Any Time of Day
by Megan Abdelnour
One of the most important, but often overlooked aspects of fitness is //www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931" target="_blank">stretching. No, I'm not talking about turning-into-a-pretzel-at-hot-yoga-type stretching. I'm talking about a general, gentle stretching you should be doing everyday. While it's accepted that a mix of strength training and cardio are crucial for your health, maintaining flexibility of your muscles is equally as important to your overall health and well-being.
Benefits of StretchingWhen done correctly and safely, //lifehacker.com/5983731/why-stretching-is-just-as-important-as-exercise" target="_blank">stretching is beneficial for your body for a variety of reasons.
Reduces the Risk of Injury During ExerciseStretching can help improve your flexibility, which leads to an increased range of motion in your joints. This allows your muscles to work most effectively, and may decrease risk of injury by promoting normal, efficient body movements.
Improves Blood CirculationStretching increases the blood flow to your muscles, helping bring more nutrients (including oxygen) to your cells. That, in turn, helps promote your overall athletic performance. In addition, this also increases the nutrients in your muscles to aid in preventing muscle soreness post-workout.
Improves Your PostureIf your postural muscles are always tight, it may contribute to an imbalance in your body. Stretching can help lengthen tight muscles that pull parts of your pelvis, shoulder girdle, and spine away from their intended position, resulting in improved upright posture. Proper posture can aid in proper functioning of internal organs.
Reduces StressYou may not have noticed that stress manifests in physical ways, and many of us "hold" our stress in our muscles. Stretching can help to relax tense muscles, and promote relaxation.
Reduces Lower Back PainBy stretching tight hamstrings and hip muscles, you can achieve increased range of motion and flexibility resulting in less stress on your pelvis and spine. By preventing tight muscles from pulling on your pelvis/spine, stretching promotes upright posture and decreases back pain caused by muscle tightness.
Before You StretchStretching should be done with caution because you could hurt yourself if you do it incorrectly. Here are some tips to help you know how to stretch safely and effectively:
- Always warm up your muscles before stretching. You always want to stretch your muscles when they're warm, and not "cold." If your muscles aren't warmed up, they're like //fitstar.com/importance-warm-ups-stretching-mobility-work/" target="_blank">uncooked spaghett––inflexible. That's why you'll need to do some light cardio exercises like jumping jacks, jump rope, or a short 5-minute run to help prevent injury. You can also stretch after a workout when your muscles are warm and loose!
- Pick the right stretch for the sport/activity you're training for. There's a difference between dynamic and static stretching. For runners, I recommend controlled, //www.bodyscapesfitness.com/the-benefits-of-dynamic-stretching-vs-static-stretching/" target="_blank">dynamic stretching before a race, and static stretching after a race. This may be different for other sports, so it's recommended to incorporate stretches that will help you with your sport/daily activities.
- Focus on stretching the "big" muscles if your body. That's your back, neck, hips, calves, etc. Focus on muscles you use often or that often get tight in your daily routine.
- Don't hold your breath as you stretch! I encourage mindful, deep breathing strategies while stretching.
- Back off if you feel pain when you stretch. You should be feeling tension--not pain--when you stretch, so only stretch until you feel the tension and hold the stretch there.
- Stretch regularly. I recommend stretching at least once a day, but if you can do more, that's even better! A great daily routine would be to stretch in the morning after waking up, and before going to bed at night. Do what works for you, so if stretching every other day is better, then stick with that. Some stretching is better than no stretching!
- Stretch both sides of your body. This might seem obvious, but you'll be surprised how you may forget to stretch your left arm or left side of your back when you're still waking up that brain in the morning. Achieve balance in your body.