Stretching is one of those things that everyone knows they are supposed to do, but often don’t—and later regret it. Let’s face it, stretching isn’t all that exciting and many people don’t enjoy it all. Not to mention, it takes up valuable time and you are usually eager just to get on with your workout.
Yes, we understand it may be very tempting to skimp on stretching—or skip it altogether—but you shouldn’t do that. This small investment of time and energy can really pay off later, and you will likely be grateful you took the time for this critical part of your fitness routine.
Why you need to stretch
Stretching serves as a warm-up to get your body prepared for physical activity. It helps increase the blood flow to your muscles, which can get them in prime condition for exercise. It also improves your flexibility, which helps you perform better in sports and fitness activities, and can reduce your chances of injury. Many people say that stretching also reduces the likelihood of muscle cramps later.
Specifics on How to Stretch
There are no iron-clad rules about exactly how you should stretch and for how long. The exact movements you do will depend on what type of physical activity you plan to do afterwards. At the very least, it’s good to spend at least few minutes doing some basic stretch program before you start a demanding physical activity. If you have a trainer or coach, they will likely also have some advice about stretching. Many people also like to devote a few minutes after their workout to stretching, as a sort of “cool down” period for their muscles.
There are a few common myths and misconceptions when it comes to stretching. Some people mistakenly believe that it is only necessary for runners and others who engage in specific sports or activities. In reality, stretching can be useful for everyone who is preparing for any type of exercise or strenuous physical activity. Another myth is that people who are already very flexible don’t need to stretch. In fact, almost everyone can still benefit from stretching, no matter how flexible they may already be. Obviously, the idea that a pre-or-post workout stretch needs to hurt or “burn” is a dangerous misconception that we definitely want to dispel. The point of stretching is to help make exercise more comfortable, not make it painful.