Odds are we all have experienced pain and stiffness in our legs, back, or just anywhere in our body. If you get out of bed in the morning or get up from your desk after sitting for a while and you have pain; stick around, as you won’t want to miss out on this life changing information.
Even if you’re disciplined about exercising, doing 30-40 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strength training 3-4 times per week, you can still feel stiff and sore. What’s the answer?
Turns out, the solution to daily aches and pains is right in front of you. What’s missing from your routine, is a thorough and proper stretching program.
Whether stretching is skipped because it’s thought to be unnecessary or simply because one is in a rush, properly stretching is something that’s so easily overlooked.
It’s no secret that as you age your muscles tighten, so your range of motion is minimized. This can not only prevent you from having an active lifestyle, but it may limit many day-to-day activities as it can create kinks and soreness in your body that become more prevalent after your muscles have been sedentary for a period of time. When done properly, a regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and reduce pain.
Stretching with a Purpose vs. Stretching
Unfortunately, many who stretch regularly don’t stretch correctly. And yet, proper stretching can have a profound impact on how your muscles repair themselves. Overtime, this greatly affects how your muscles behave after being in a sedentary state for a few hours.
The good news is everyone can learn to stretch, regardless of age, flexibility or exercise habits. According to Jonathan Cluett, M.D. of About.com Orthopedics, there’s a few tips for stretching properly:
- Know your sport.
Whether you’re in the gym, on the track, or anywhere else, it’s important to know what your workout will involve. Understanding which muscles will be worked is the only way to know how to best stretch out.
- Focus on those muscles.
While a good overall routine is helpful, your emphasis should be on the muscles that will be most heavily involved in your workout.
- Warm up before stretching.
Just some easy walking or a light jog will be sufficient to warm up your muscles, but it will make the stretching session much more valuable.
- Begin slowly.
You don’t need to touch your toes right away: Begin slowly and push yourself as your muscles loosen up. Stretching too much, too soon can be painful and potentially harmful.
Once you feel your muscles reaching their limit, hold the position for a count of 10. Then push yourself a little further and hold again for a count of 10.
- Don’t rush your stretching routine.
If you’re going to have to cut your workout short, don’t skip or shorten the stretching. This is more important than an extra set of reps or another half mile.
- Do it again.
Once you’re finished working out, stretch again. Not only is it an excellent way to cool down from your workout, but this is the time that you will improve your flexibility the most.
- Don’t bounce!
You will get the best stretch, and prevent injuries if you avoid bouncing. Instead, hold the stretch, and feel a constant pull in the muscles.
- Stretch both sides.
Many people have a tendency to under-stretch the ‘healthy’ side after an injury. Use the same stretches, for the same amount of time, for both sides of your body.
Gym trainers, physical therapists, exercise instructors will all know great ways to stretch. When you’re getting started, have someone knowledgeable watch your routine and offer their suggestions.
Daily stretching doesn’t have to be a big time commitment, but can produce big results. I stretch for about 15 minutes in the morning in between sips of coffee while I watch the news and for 10 minutes in the evening; it helps me relax before I go to sleep.
Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect from a regular stretching program:
- Enhanced coordination and balance
- Reduced muscle soreness and tension
- Increased range of movement in the joints
- Increased circulation
While stretching is important for people of all ages and activity levels, it’s essential as we get older. A few simple stretches can minimize the stiffness and soreness we tend to feel after our muscles have been at rest.
If your stretching program isn’t reducing your stiffness and pain, seek help. I recently sought help of a Physical Therapist for the soreness I was experiencing and she worked with me on a number of stretching exercises. Within three weeks of stretching each day, I am virtually pain free.
I’m a believer! If you experience soreness and stiffness, I urge you to give daily stretching a try. There are lots of youtube videos that can give you some great stretching exercises to get you started.