As I have gotten older and tried to stay active while avoiding injury, one of the key components in trying to do so is stretching. No matter how active or inactive I have been, when I don’t stretch for a specific period, my body starts sending me signals that something is wrong or about to go wrong. The effects of a lack of stretching are also very evident when it comes to the work I do. For example, with the many lower back pains my clients suffer, a lack of stretching is often a major factor. What makes stretching so essential is it doesn’t make a difference if you are inactive or are extremely active; without it your body will stiffen up and cause you problems. People who are inactive stiffen up because they don’t move and their body loses its elasticity or range of motion. Those who are active stiffen up because exercise shortens the muscles and without stretching, you are going to be tight. So how do we incorporate stretching into what we already do, well please read my 3 suggestions.
- Stretch Even When It isn’t related to working out – Unfortunately for people who are active, we might spend 5 minutes after a workout doing a few stretches to say we have stretched. Realistically most of us have spent even less than 5 minutes stretching if any at all. I am also guilty of this, and my advice is not to make stretching the thing you do only after a workout. This means that everyone should block off 10 or more minutes 2 or 3 times a week, just to focus on your flexibility. Spending specific time stretching will keep the active person less likely to get injured by having muscles and joints that move well when put under stress. The areas I would focus on stretching the most would be the hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads, IT band, and chest.
2. Listen To Your body – Do you have a sore back when you wake up in the morning? Well, this is usually one sign that your body is trying to tell you something. Most people that I speak to have aches and pains and attribute them to just getting old, or the normal “wear and tear” of life. While it is true that with life there is going to be some wear and tear, sometimes our aches are a signal that we need to stretch or move. My suggestion for those with muscular aches and pains, see a good physiotherapist or invest in a stretching book to work on your problem areas.
3. Try not to stay in one position for too long or do activities that are repetitive- As I said in previous articles, sitting for extended periods of time is bad for you. Also, any behaviour that is very repetitive, where you just move your body in a similar pattern, can also lead to muscular imbalances. I know this sounds simple but don’t sit for any longer than 30 minutes at a time without standing for at least 1 minute. Besides, try your best not to get stuck in movements or motions that are always the same.
While stretching probably isn’t the most exciting thing you do in your day. I have found that stretching even for 10 minutes a few times a week, might be the most important for your body.