Is stretching worth the time and effort it involves?
How often do you stretch properly? Most people are guilty of rushing through stretches or perhaps even skipping them completely. But are they missing out on something important by not stretching properly? The answer is yes.
Whether your skip stretching because it doesn’t burn calories, see it as pointless because you’re “wasting valuable workout time” or simply because you don’t know how… it may be quite beneficial for you to start changing your ways.
With that said, it is important to note that by not including stretching into your program, you are setting yourself up for potential injury. And if you are injured during a workout, you’ll then have to put your goals on hold in order to let your body repair itself. Nobody wants to have to do that!
What are the benefits associated with stretching?
Stretching is very beneficial to both your fitness and when it comes to every-day life. I’ve included some of the main benefits below.
Having flexible muscles can greatly improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bringing in the groceries, reaching things on the ground, or even tying your shoelaces become much easier and less tiring. And of course, flexibility is great in the bedroom, too!
Stretching increases the blood flow to your muscles. And increased circulation means that more nourishment is pumped into to the muscle tissue, removing waste by-products in the process. This helps your muscle to recover quicker after working out – and can also reduce the time it takes to grow!
Frequent stretching helps stop your muscles from becoming tight. This allows you to easier maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at bay. Having good posture is also very beneficial to your form when you workout, as it improves coordination and balance. We should all know that having good form helps target muscles better and greatly reduces our chance of injury!
Believe it or not, having tight, tense muscles actually contributes to stress. So when you make it a habit to stretch often, your stress levels can be reduced.
Does stretching reduce delayed onset muscle soreness?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS for short) refers to the not-so-friendly reward we receive after an intense workout. Ever came home from the gym after leg day and struggled to get out of bed or even sit down on the toilet the next day? This is simply a side effect of the muscle repair process. And though it is often regarded as a ‘job well done’ experiencing extreme pain and stiffness can really put a kink in your performance for hours, if not days afterwards.
Stretching both before and after any heavy activity will help reduce the intensity of DOMS. How much it helps though depends on the individual and their circumstances. I personally have found that continuing to stretch even while my muscles are sore greatly helps speed up the recovery process.
When it comes to stretching, where to I even start?
Knowing where to start can be a daunting task. Especially if you have little knowledge on the different techniques or more importantly, have never practiced stretching before.
But you don’t have to worry, a quick google search will bring up a number of great (and free) resources.
I highly recommend downloading their free e-book. You’ll need to subscribe to their mailing list in order to get it, but that’s a small price to pay for some amazing information!
They also supply a few free posters that you can print out and stick on your wall. Which are a great visual aid to be used as a habit cue (see: my article on how to form habits)
And of course, more detailed guides, videos, audios, products and posters are available on their website to purchase if you really want to get all the benefits you can from stretching! I bought one of the bundles last year and still use the methods to this day.
Stretch Ninja is also another one of my personal favourites.
Now, lastly, when stretching, you do not have to go to the extremes – like the contortionist featured in this photo. We all know how tempting it can be to force a stretch, but it is important not to.
Forced stretches can often result in injury, so make sure you start off slowly and gradually ease into position, rather than pushing yourself from the get-go.
You can find more information about this + much more in the eBook that I’ve mentioned above. Typing it all out myself for you would mean I’d be here for hours (and not to mention it would be unfair to the original author!)
To bring this article to a close, I have added a few simple example stretches below (that I personally practice often)