Peeps, I got something to tell ya.
I’m not talking about with your money here.
I’m talkin’ about your muscles.
Here’s the beginning of many a conversation with my clients…
“Did you stretch?”
“Did you stretch?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve preached the stretching subject over the years, but I’ll continue until I’m blue in the face.
I gotta say, it was hard for me, as someone who is flexible & hypermobile (my joints move a little beyond their range) to really understand I could have tight muscles. So, I’m telling you…If you fall into either of these categories you can still have tight muscles, & you too can benefit from a stretching routine.
You may ask why you need to stretch.
So, here are a few reasons you should stretch.
- Improve relaxation
- Increase range of motion
- Improve posture
- Reduce risk of injury
- Decrease low back pain
1. Have you ever stopped to pay attention to the muscles in your neck? Take a second right now and relax your shoulders. Move them down away from your ears. Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder & hold for a few seconds. Do the same with the left side. Now tilt your head forward, hold; then tilt it back, hold. Next, do a few neck circles, clockwise & counter-clockwise. Come back to center and see if your neck feels different. (This is more of a short stretch you can do if you’re sitting in front of the computer or TV)
Most people hold A LOT of tension & stress in their neck, shoulders & upper back. Being aware of the tension & stretching can help you improve the relaxation of your muscles.
2. A big reason to stretch is because of something I see in a lot of people…a lack of range of motion in the shoulders.
Your shoulders don’t get tight over night, which makes it hard to realize. One thing you can do to check your shoulder’s range of motion is to hold your arms straight overhead. Do they line up with your ears or do they stop short? Does one go back further than the other?
Having tight muscles can affect everyday activities. You may not be able to reach something on a higher shelf because your arms don’t have the range of motion, not because you may be short stuff. 😉. You may not be able to bend over to pick up something you dropped because your muscles are too tight, not because you’re getting old 😉.
3. Almost everyone has some degree of slumped shoulders. With the invention of computers, gaming systems, desk jobs, smartphones, etc. people have become tighter through the chest & weaker in the back. Slumping, living with forward head posture & shoulders that curve forward has become the norm. Unfortunately, this can lead to Dowager’s hump if not corrected. Now that is a reason to stretch!
Not only can you avoid the back hump, but you can look taller and poised with stretching.
One thing you can do is stand against a wall and squeeze your shoulder blades together until your upper back (shoulder area) is flat against the wall. You can also do it sitting in a tall backed chair (I use to do it sitting on a church bench). Let me tell ya, your shoulders & back will get tired QUICK if you’re not used to it.
4. If you want to prevent the risk of injury, you’ve got another good reason to stretch.
To give you an example…If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, your hamstrings (the back of your legs) will get tight & the muscle shortens over time.
Then, if you decide to go running or play tennis after work, your hamstrings will be stretched suddenly, increasing your risk of injury. No bueno. So, when you’re super tight you might want to give a little extra attention to those muscles.
You need to shoot for equal flexibility on both sides of your body. In other words, you don’t want to be super flexy on one side and like a wound clock on the other or you’ll create another host of problems.
5. The good ol’ low back pain. What better reason to stretch.
Humor me now. Bend over and touch your toes. Can you? Then lean back over a big exercise ball or just try to bend backward. Do you feel any muscles pull? Do you feel any tightness?
Low back pain is one of the biggest complaints I hear, but most people don’t know that it could be from tight musles.
Disclaimer here…. I’m Not saying there couldn’t be something else wrong, but you should really look into stretching these two muscles & see if you benefit.
If your hamstrings (remember, the back of your legs?) are tight, or if the extremely overlooked psoas muscle (it connects the lower spine to the thigh bone) are tight, you are at a greater risk for low back pain.
One stretch you can do for the hamstrings is simple. Just bend over. Even if you can’t touch your toes, this will give you a good stretch. Think about sending the booty to the sky to lengthen those hamstrings.
For the psoas, pretend you’re about to propose on one knee. Now walk the front foot forward like the person is trying to get away. This is an extended lunge. This may be enough of a stretch for you. If not, then push that back hip toward the front foot. You should feel a stretch in the groin area/fold of the leg in the leg behind you.
6. You just don’t know what it feels like to not be tight. One spectacular reason to stretch is just to feel good. If you start a stretching routine, you will feel better after a period of time. Your shoulders won’t be up in your ears all the time, your low back pain may start to lessen, and you will start to feel more relaxed in every day life.
I want to go a little further with today’s post & give you a few extra tips to get you going.
A Few Tips on Stretching:
1. Do Not stretch before a workout. Save it for after.
Stretching lengthens the muscle & you don’t want to be all limber & flexy before those muscles need to be called upon to do their bidding. Plus, after your workout, your muscles are warmed up & it’s easier to stretch. To create a visual…Is Silly Putty easier to stretch when it’s cold or after you’ve played with it for a few minutes & it’s warmed up?
2. No matter what time of day you stretch, make sure your muscles have been warmed up first. I like to do at least 5 minutes of an activity (walking, air squats, easy push ups, housework, etc.) to make sure I’m warm. If you choose yoga for your stretching, the instructor should take you through poses to warm you up before deep stretches.
3. You need to hold your stretches for more than a few seconds. I make my clients hold a stretch for a 1 minute minimum. Yin yoga will usually have you hold a stretch for 3-5 minutes, so don’t be alarmed.
4. Don’t push through pain. If you’re tight, stretching will be uncomfortable, but shouldn’t send shooting or sharp pain. After about 1 minute, you should notice your stretch isn’t as uncomfortable as it was. If that happens, feel free to go a little deeper into your stretch.
5. You won’t gain flexibility overnight. It just won’t happen, so don’t set your expectations too high. I recommend giving yourself a few months of consistent stretching before you notice a big difference.
Whew! I know this seems like a lot of info, & I could go on. Just consider this an introduction to stretching. Haha. I feel it’s important to tell you reasons to stretch before telling you to stretch. You can go ahead & start including the few stretches I listed today. Then when you finish, you can pet your cat who comes by to see what you’re doing. Hahaha
If you have any questions about the stretches I’ve mentioned above, feel free to leave a question in the comments below.
Now, I want to hear from you. Do you stretch? If so, how often do you stretch? If not, are you considering adding stretching to your routine?