How to Start Stretching: Tips for Flexibility
If you avoid stretching at all cost, you are not alone. Plenty of people avoid stretching for a variety of reasons, most commonly that they believe it has to be boring and painful, and doesn’t really do any good. There are some reasons for these myths about stretching that I covered in this past blog post. Below are some concrete steps that you can take to increase your flexibility safely that aren’t boring or painful.
1. Start with Movement
People often think they need to start their flexibility journey by sitting in an uncomfortable stretch and just waiting for it to suck less. Ugh! Instead try moving through every joint in your body and just feel what’s going on in there. Mostly we go about our lives without really feeling our bodies or noticing where we might be tight. Check out this “Circles” warm-up here that I like to do first thing every morning just to say hi to my body and shake off the cobwebs.
2. Look for Areas that Need Extra Care
Pretty much all of us have areas in our bodies that are cranky: hip sockets, lower back, neck, shoulders, ankles, elbows… so many possibilities. This could be from old injuries, too much time sitting, too much time standing, weird posture, stress, or just a mystery ache. Knowing where you might need to be more careful will help you prevent injury and have greater success.
3. Do a Little Every Day
Whenever we start something new the tendency is to get excited and go crazy. This isn’t a great approach to stretching. You will be so much happier if you do a short session of 15-30 minutes (depending on your needs and schedule) every day rather than going nuts and doing every splits video you find on YouTube so you can’t walk the next day! Have longer sessions a few days a week if you like, but with flexibility you will make the best progress if you do a little something every day.
4. Focus on the Areas You Need Most
If you are only doing short sessions you can’t stretch every muscle in you body, so pick some areas that are particularly in need of TLC for your daily routine. When you do your Circles you will probably be able to tell what needs this loving attention because it will be complaining the loudest. Hit everything else during your longer sessions,
5. Don’t Sit in a Stretch that Feels Like Hell
Pushing your body into a hell stretch and trying to hang while you feel like you want to puke and die is just not productive. You are teaching yourself to hate stretching and you are teaching your body to rebel against you. Instead, find that tight muscle and flirt with it. Go into the stretch and out of it a few times, holding it just for a few seconds. Go into and wiggle a little bit while you are there. Massage the tight muscles while you are stretching them. Try stretching the muscles around the tight muscle by moving back and forth a little bit. Muscles vastly prefer to be flirted with instead of attacked. They will relax more when they don’t anticipate pain.
6. Find a Good Coach
Really, I’m not saying this to plug my classes! Stretching is the most mysterious and least understood part of fitness and is often treated as the unpleasant add-on at the end of your “real” workout. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about how to stretch safely and effectively. If you are concerned about whether or not you are doing it right nothing beats a good coach to help you construct your personalized routine!
Just remember, the best time to start stretching was years ago, the second best time is right now! Don’t let anything hold you back from finding that freedom and joy in your body that comes from mobility. You can do it!