Why is stretching my worst nightmare?
Stretching has been my worst nightmare since I was young. I mean, I hate stretching…it’s embarrassing when all your friends can bend and twist and become human pretzels, and you can’t even touch your toes. I’ve never been a flexible person (I don’t want to say that genetics plays a part in flexibility, but it probably does), and now, I’m a 3rd Degree Black Belt who can kick above her head, but still can’t reach down and touch her toes. Flexibility is hard for lots of people, and I’m here today to help you stretching-haters learn to love stretching—even though you can’t touch your toes.
First of all, stretching is important, and not just because it’s that thing that usually happens at the end of a workout. Without stretching, you run the risk of your muscles becoming stiff, weak, and unable to stretch as far as they should be, which could lead to fully or partially tearing your muscles. By stretching, you keep your muscles in a constant state of flexibility, which means you can use them without any risk of tearing. I tend to stretch twice during my workouts—once just after I warm up, so if I do any high kicks, my muscles are warm, flexible, and prepared to push to the limits, and once at the end of my workout to push my flexibility as far as I can.
Something I find cool about stretching is what it physically does to your muscles. If you intertwine your fingers and push them together tightly, that is similar to what a tight muscle would look like. Now, try and pull them apart. When you do, you’ll find that it’s difficult to pull them just a little bit; instead, you and up pulling them completely apart, which is similar to what would happen when you tried to overwork a cold, tight muscle and you tore it. Put your fingers together again, and relax them slightly; then, pull them apart slowly. Much easier, right? If you stretch your muscles enough, the muscle fibres in your body will become accustomed to the stretch, and elongate further and further without tearing. This is how people go from not being able to touch their toes to being able to do the splits.
Stretching seems pretty overwhelming when you think about it from the perspective of a beginner. I mean, there are hundreds of muscles in the body, and finding a way to stretch each one of them sounds exhausting, not to mention extremely time-consuming. Let’s break it down. There are two types of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are stretches that you do when you are moving, such as kicking your leg up as high as you can. Static stretches involve less movement, like reaching down to touch your toes. Both types of stretches are extremely effective, but it depends on what kind of results you’re looking for as to which type of stretch is best to use. I’ve included some excellent sources to start you on your stretching journey at the bottom of this post, but you can also talk to fitness experts at your local gym, physiotherapists, or other trained professionals to get stretches that work specifically for your needs.
When should you stretch?
Remember to always do your stretching when your body is warm. Stretching cold muscles is about as effective as trying to pull your tight fingers apart—it’s probably not going to work out too well. Do a light warm-up, not enough to break a huge sweat, but enough to get some blood pumping through your veins. Then, once you’re done your workout, stretch again, holding each stretch for about 30 seconds. Bouncing a stretch only increases the risk of injuring muscles, so take your stretching time to relax, enjoy how good it feels to be done your workout, and think about how darn good it will feel to move on with the rest of your day when you’re done.
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