The Simple Guide to Stretching

Definitely one of the most neglected aspects when it comes to keeping healthy. So often we overlook stretching as it doesn’t hold the same appeal as lifting weights, running, swimming or playing sports and this can be to our detriment. Regular stretching can have a profound effect on our bodies just look at how effective Yoga is. Here are some of the key advantages you will gain from regular stretching:

  • Improved Circulation
  • Decreased Muscle tension
  • Increased Joint ROM (range of motion)
  • Better Co-Ordination
  • Improved Sports Performance
  • Faster recovery after exercise

I think we can add to this the improved functioning of the body in general. Stretching first thing in the morning will not only help circulate blood around the body but help hormones get flowing and your lymphatic system kick into gear. Hence why I like to start each day with a tall glass of water and a light stretching routine.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

A good stretching or energising/calming routine can be done in about 5 minutes each day and this should cover your whole body getting everything well stretched and either ready for the day or ready for some sport. It will not only boost your wellbeing but set you up in the right way for the day ahead. On the other hand stretches can be used to wind down and relieve the days tension, so they really work both ways in balancing the bodies energy.

I find it is always best to stretch in order, either from top to bottom or bottom to top. For instance starting with the calves and ending with the neck. Also always make sure you are slightly warmed up before stretching. This can be achieved simply by doing 30 seconds of jumping jacks and some arm rotations. Once you feel slightly limber you can start stretching holding each movement for 10-15 seconds which would be classified as a ‘Maintenance Stretch’ meaning the stretch will not improve your flexibility but rather maintain it and get them ready for the day ahead.

Make sure you always stretch the following muscles:

–> Calves

–> Hamstrings

–> Quadriceps

–> Lower Back

–> Chest

–> Lats

–> Neck

Checkout the poster below for a guide to stretching out the entire body. The problem with demonstrating stretches without being there in person is that those unfamiliar with stretching may find it hard to grasp some of the movements. For those new to sports I would suggest asking for some guidance from someone you know has a knowledge in sports and specifically stretching. Or just start lightly, you should ease off the stretch as soon as you feel some tension in the targeted muscle.

I would also suggest using a matt or towel in terms of equipment to start or if it is good weather it is great to stretch outdoors.

  • Always brace your core while stretching to prevent injuries and strengthen your body.
  • Start slowly and go easy on each stretch developing each movement as time passes.
  • Taking one Yoga class can provide you with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to stretches.
  • Try to be consistent. 5 minutes of stretching each day is better than 1 hour of yoga once a week.
  • Improvement in flexibility may come quickly initially but will slow down.
  • If you can stretch lightly twice a day do it in the morning for the energising effects and before sleeping as your muscles will be warm and the stretches will help relieve the days tension.
  • When stretching after exercise you can hold stretches for 30 seconds to develop the muscles.
  • If you can only find time for two forms of exercise each day, Walk and Stretch.

Everyone from beginners to seasoned athletes should be stretching lightly on a regular basis. Any tips from readers about stretching would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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