I am certainly not all about that yoga-doing granola-eating life. In fact, I pretty much shunned that life when I was I was in the middle of my weight loss journey.
I thought balance and stretching were a total waste of time; that they were totally lame.
I lost my weight running. Yes, they kinda stretched before, but I found I couldn’t do static stretches before.
Go figure, I must have been watching newbies.
I felt like I was sooooo much better than dumb balance exercises that everyone can do. Puuullleeezzeee. that was for old people that were in their 80s that were totally inactive and had broken a hip.
I am an educated person, I swear. But these are the limiting beliefs I held fast to for many, many years. My reasoning was that I knew that I could do them, so why do it?
I felt it didn’t help me with weight loss. It did nothing for my cardio and didn’t make me stronger, so why waste valuable time doing it, right?
Never mind that at the time I had a sit-down job that I had to get up from every 20 minutes because my legs and hips hurt so bad. Never mind that I couldn’t touch my toes or get into a squat with heavy weight below parallel. That only mattered when I was competing in powerlifting, and let me tell you, it was a problem.
When I started as a personal trainer I still had that limiting belief. I am embarrassed to say that stretching and balance were an afterthought after a good workout and sometimes sorely lacking in the programs I made for others.
One day, I acquired clients that were a husband and wife duo, who changed my life completely about stretching and balance work.
They were over 70, in amazing shape and hired me to stay strong and in shape. I used what their secret was to staying so healthy. “We stretch and do balance work every day.”
I found out that he had broken his neck, has had a subdural hematoma and also broke his back. He had been stretching for years and he believes that it saved his life.
He owns his own construction company and he is still working - very actively I might add, doing things men half his age can’t.
His wife is a kindergarten teacher and is in amazing shape herself. They both stretch, do balance work and make sure they aren’t “old fogies.” Their words, not mine.
I have been working with them for over a year now, and loving every second of it. Not only are they stronger than most of my 30 year old clients, but they are more flexible, can get off the floor without the use of their arms (try it sometime—it is freaking hard) and can do all the down dogs, chattaranga, and other stuff most of us can’t.
Think about it. Have you ever seen a lifter walk like an orangutang - they lumber around, not looking anything but tight with a bunch of muscle. The muscle is nice, but looking at them, they cant walk gracefully nor do they look like they can stretch out their pecs at all.
In fact, some can't even sit with legs spread and touch their toes. Actually, most can’t. They laugh and say, “Well, I lift,” like that should be well known that lifters cant stretch. Duh, right?
Well, I am here to tell you that I changed my tune, and it has changed my life. Here are some tips on how to change your tune when it comes to stretching.
Six Important Stretching Tips
#1 - Don't Stretch a Cold Muscle
Stretching a cold muscle can cause injury - don’t do it. I found this out when I was running and that's what kinda put me off stretching.
I thought since all the runners I hung out with stretched before, I should, too. I did and just about decapitated my hamstrings. Couldn’t run for a week.
Dynamic stretching can be done first, though. Leg lifts, butt kicks, etc. are great warm-up exercises and also is a stretch.
#2 - OK to Stretch in Between Exercises
Stretching in between exercises can be beneficial for some. Now, hear me out.
Most of you guys are like, "That is so dumb, who does that?" I do. I get stoved up easily.
It could be because I am almost 50 or just that I am tight. If I am doing legs, I do down dogs and touch my toes in between to keep my hamstrings from shortening.
Some people may need more stretching than others. It's never a “bad thing” to do more stretching in a routine after your muscles are warm, if you are so inclined to.
#3 - Stretching Can Steal Your Time
Stretching can be time-consuming. This one is certainly true.
However, this is one reason I do stretch in between my sets. Plus, it loosens me up if I am stretching out the same body part.
#4 - Focus on the Majors
You should stretch major body parts, and not worry so much about minor ones. I don’t go around stretching my fingers... Unless you are using your fingers more than anything else during your workout.
Focus on bigger muscle groups, legs, thighs, back, oh, and hips - hips are a big thing.
Sitting can lead to a lot of health problems. Our hip flexors are shortened. Maybe you are already hunched permanently at the hips - this is where you may need to do more stretching then.
#5 - Don't Bounce
Stop bouncing around like a ball! You shouldn’t bounce because then you can stretch something too far and tear stuff.
Hold it and breathe! Don’t do the whole “no pain, no gain” thing, you want to feel it, but it shouldn’t hurt.
#6 - Use It or Lose It
To get the most bang for your buck, you need to stretch more frequently. Yes, again, it can be time-consuming. So, complimenting your workout with a stretch to the same body part you are working could solve some time issues.
Stretching is considered controversial But most scientific literature has mixed results.
Some say that stretching does not help. Others say stretching helps a little. Yet other proponents say that you need to stretch a lot - like 3 times a day.
I think that there is no downside to stretching unless you are doing static stretches with cold muscles or pushing beyond where you should causing muscle damage.
I used to think that stretching must involve pain. Many times I've over-stretched and hurt myself, and then declared stretching was dumb. However, done right, I believe stretching to be very beneficial-especially as we age.
If you are consistent (as with anything in life) you will get the maximum results. If you have a goal to be bendy, then likely you will need to stretch more. If you have a goal to be able to sit in a squat for a period of time, you may need to stretch more.
Stretching doesn’t have to take up all your time. Do it while you're warm in between sets.
I know when I do legs, I stretch in between. By the time I am done I can do the splits because my hamstrings are good and warm and more pliable.
So, in closing, don't look like an orangutang - go get your stretch on!