Why Stretching Is Important

Stretching is an activity that is usually skipped in the health and wellness world but it’s one of the most important routines to be sure to get in.

Stretching keeps your muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Without an adequate stretching routine your joints will loose their full range of motion which is important for everyday activities and overall health and function of the body. Without flexibility the muscles in the body will become shortened and tight. The problem with this happening is when you want those muscles to work for the activity you are doing, they will be weak and unable to extend all the way. This will then put you at risk for injury, joint pain, strains and muscle damage.

As an example, one of the muscles that will become tight with extended amounts of sitting in a chair is the hamstrings which can be found at the back of your leg. When this muscle becomes tight it will limit knee extension which will then inhibit walking. On the other hand, when the muscles are tight and are quickly called on for a high intensity activity such as tennis – they may be over stretched and cause a strain to the muscle. Injured muscles may not be strong enough to support the joints they connect to which can eventually lead to joint injury.

Where to start?

It can seem overwhelming to start stretching when you have a body full of muscles. Instead, start with the critical areas such as the neck and upper back along with the hips and legs. Pick one stretch for each area, such as a trap stretch, chest stretch, hamstring stretch and glute stretch. Then stretch them for 15-30 seconds on each side everyday – that will only take you 5 minutes to do! Commit to 5 minutes a day of stretching to start. If that seems overwhelming, then commit to 5 minutes of stretching every other day or 3-4 times a week. Everyone has 5 minutes to spare in their day somewhere.

Keep in mind that stretching once or twice will not correct the tight muscles you have in your body. It has mostly likely taken you months to years to become as tight as you are, so it can potentially take the equivalent amount of time to reverse the tightness and become flexible. So be sure to be consistent and work at it everyday. If you stay consistent you will start to notice a difference and you may even want to extend it from 5 minutes a day to 20-30 minutes as you will be feeling so much better!

How to stretch properly

Do not stretch a muscle when you’re cold and you have not warmed up properly. Muscles need to be prepared properly before an activity. Just 5-10 minutes of walking can help to warm up your body enough to get a proper stretch in. Don’t have time for 5-10 minutes of walking? Start with a warm shower to get your blood flow going towards all of the amazing muscles you have in your body.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds minimum but work up to holding them for 1 minute each. DO NOT BOUNCE – this can damage and hurt the muscles and is not beneficial for you to do. Reach and hold the stretch still – it may feel tight at first but as you hold the stretch you will notice the tension will loosen and you may even be able to stretch further!

Bottom Line

There are many different ways to stretch  before and after an activity, such as dynamic vs static. Dynamic stretching is a movement stretch that you would use to warm up before an activity and static stretching is the reach and hold stretch that you would use for a cool down after an activity.

Be sure to get a proper warm up and cool down with your activity of the day and include stretching.

Stretching can help to prevent injuries and can help with a quicker recovery after an activity.

Don’t have time? Start with 5 minutes a day – everyone has 5 minutes to spare in their day somewhere  – stop scrolling social media and stretch ;).

Give these tips a try and slowly start adding a stretching routine into your everyday life!

How To Release Your Hamstrings With One Stretch | Step by Step Process

Technology these days has us sitting in front of a computer, tablet or phone all day, and it also has us sitting in transportation like a car, train, plane or all of the alike. The problem with this is most of the time we do not correct the muscle imbalances that can occur with sitting for too long in our day-to-day lives. There are many musculoskeletal structures that can be placed into an imbalance with chronic sitting, but for the sake of this write-up, we will be focusing on the hamstrings.

The hamstrings are located on the back of your legs just underneath your gluteal muscles. There are many different reasons why they can become tight but here is one technique you can try to decrease the tension in them.

This is a contract/relax technique that is also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). This is a technique you can use almost anywhere in your body to increase mobility in your muscles and joints and therefore increase your range of motion (ROM).

What you need:
a) A mat to lay on
b) Yoga strap, towel or rope

How to do the stretch:

  1. Bend down from a standing position to reach for your toes and test to see how far you can reach. Can you get to your thighs, shins, ankles, toes? Remember where you can reach as you will be testing this again after the contract/relax stretch.
  2. Lay comfortably on your back on your mat, and place the yoga strap around the middle arch of one foot.
  3. Now lay with both legs straight on the ground and use your arms to pull the leg you have wrapped with the band up so that your leg is straight in the air. Only pull it up high enough that you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your leg (you can feel this in the bottom and top of the back of your leg or one or the other). The other leg stays laying straight on the ground.
  4. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds. Breathe through the stretch, it should feel like it’s starting to relax near the end of the 10 seconds.
  5. Once the 10 seconds is over, now contract your leg into the rope as if you are pushing your leg to the ground without it moving, and hold this contraction for 5 seconds. You’re only pushing about 5 pounds of pressure into the rope – do not push as hard as you can into the rope. Just enough that you are getting the muscles contracting.
  6. Once the 5 second contraction is done, pull the rope and your leg closer to your body to another and new comfortable stretch. Now hold this new stretch for 10 seconds and follow it with another 5 second contraction.
  7. Repeat 4-5 times, then proceed to do the same stretch and process with your other leg.
  8. Stand back up and measure how far you can reach for your toes again to feel the difference in your range of motion.

Give this a try the next time your hamstrings are feeling tight!

Here is a video on how to do this from my Instagram account: