The Power of Stretching

Stretching is no new phenomenon. There are many forms of it being pursued that have long since been around such as Yoga and Pilates. However, it gives our body new life, energy and a better sense of wellness. Our body naturally craves stretching. What is the first thing we do after sitting on a plane for hours? Likewise we all stretch in the morning and it feels good. Do you know the best times to stretch? Listed are the three best times to Stretch.

1. First thing in the morning – This sounds obvious but many of us don’t take it past the brief yawn and arm stretch we make first thing when we wake. One of the best reasons is to start your day off right. When you stretch you feel a slight pull in the muscle, not to the point of utter pain but a gentle pull that you hold for about 30 seconds. Doing this daily helps to stretch out our muscles as to not be stiff and tight. Everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, working out in the gym, carrying around and playing with children as well as lifting need your flexibility as well as your strength.

2. During your workout – Yes you heard me correctly. Stretching before you do some exercise certainly won’t hurt you but it hasn’t been proven to be necessary. It is not the stretching you need before a workout but rather a warm up session of about 5-7 minutes using about 50-60% of your heart rate instead of the usual 85% for cardio workouts. What you want to do is stretch between sets of weights. When we lift weights the muscle get tighter. To help create a nice fluid motion it is important to do a stretch in between different exercises and their sets. Most people just sit and catch their breath with a sip of water, why not add some stretching to your waiting time.

3. After your exercise session is complete – This is one of the most crucial times to stretch. This is the time that your muscles need the release from their tension. I personally find most tension in the hips, buttocks, chest and biceps but it will be different from person to person. Remember to stretch your abdominal muscles by lying on your tummy face down and lifting your arms to make them perpendicular with the floor and your back arch. Most people forget this one.

Please note how to stretch properly. For optimum results you will want to stretch twice per day or at the very least once per day. Not doing so for weeks and months results in those tight muscles that make us feel unmotivated to stretch again for fear of discomfort. Also, for health reasons I tell you it is not wise to bounce back and forth. I see this one a lot with hamstring stretches. If you cannot touch your toes, that is okay. Daily if you are diligent you will get there. Simply hold each stretch you do for 30 seconds, at first it may feel like an eternity, however after the first few times it will become more comfortable. For each stretch that you do, biceps for example do 2 sets of stretches for each arm so that each body part gets 1 full minute total. Stretching for a count of 3 seconds and releasing will not do much for you, I assure you of that.

**Remember the three key areas of fitness are cardiovascular, resistance training and flexibility, which comes through the form of stretching. I guarantee you will find not only your workouts more effective, but your daily life and tasks too when you decide to stretch!