In my profession as a nutrition coach, it's very common to focus on the big picture items like eating healthy & working out, and forgetting about smaller details like say stretching. I was guilty of it too. You know when I first started working out a few years ago, I did it with enthusiasm and lots of energy. I pushed my body with every workout and I focused on workouts that built muscle, improved my stamina & endurance and which would make the biggest impact on my overall fitness. Yup, I was a badass.
Now this was all well and good until I started having issues doing some of the exercises. My body was sore, my muscles were tight and there were days when I just felt like I wasn't getting as much out of the workouts as I could have. Now luckily at that time I decided to work with a personal trainer and after his assessment, he told me that I needed to work on my flexibility. I was doing great at everything else but I just wasn't very flexible. And flexibility was key for improved mobility so that when I worked out, I could do so with a greater range of motion and more benefits.
Stretching is actually one of the fundamental basics of fitness and one that I was guilty of ignoring. I know I am not the only one out there and since I want you to have all the benefits of working out - and avoid injuries - I thought I would share some of the top benefits of incorporating some daily stretches into your routine.
Preps Your Body for Working Out
Working out increases the level of stress in your body and stretching is a key way to help prep your body for the physical activity you are going to be engaging in. By loosening up your muscles, you make it easier for your body to move during the workout and better handle the physical impact of the activities your are participating in.
May Reduce the Risk of Injury
When you stretch daily, your muscles are much healthier and more limber which in turn means you have a much lower risk of joint associated injuries. Your body is not only going to be able to handle workouts better, it will be much more adept at day to day activities as well. When you are more flexible, you decrease the strain on your muscles and increase your overall range of motion.
Decreases Muscle Stiffness and Helps you Relax
When our bodies are stressed, it affects everything in our bodies and can influence hormones and cause weight gain. Working out helps alleviate some stress but it also causes stress too. With stretching however, we decrease muscle stiffness and allow our bodies to fully relax. The less stressed we are, the better our bodies perform and the better we feel overall.
Increases our Range of Motion
Stretching encourages our muscles to loosen and lengthen, thereby making our bodies more flexible. This gives us a better - and stronger - range of motion which benefits us in everything from day to day tasks to getting the most out of our workouts. This means that by stretching on a daily basis, we are much more likely to be able to get stronger, leaner & faster over time.
Helps Alleviate Post-Workout Pain
Stretching is one of the key ways to help alleviate the pain we so often feel after tough workouts. Our muscles naturally want to tighten up, which causes stiffness and more pain, so gently stretching them out is important to maintaining flexibility. Not only that, but consistent stretching will help your body recover faster between workouts and keep you from feeling too sore.
So how should you go about adding stretching to your daily routine? Well, it's not hard and you can do it either once a day or, as I often recommend to clients, add it to different times throughout the day for a few minutes. And then either first thing in the morning or at night, get out your foam roller and take 10 - 50 minutes and gently roll out your back and legs.
Beyond that, consider adding a stretching workout like yoga to your fitness schedule. Yoga is one of the best workouts that really focuses on increasing your overall flexibility and core strength.
It's funny how it's these little details - like stretching - that make all the difference when it comes to working out and just feeling your best on a day to day basis. I know that I saw a huge difference once I started stretching daily - from better quality workouts to feeling less stressed and more flexible. I encourage you to start adding stretching to your daily routine and see if it doesn't make a difference for you as well.