Have a hard time getting low for a squat? Can’t change direction as quickly as you’d like on the field/court? Flexibility is probably your issue. Flexibility is a critical part of fitness and often gets worse with age and the sedentary lifestyles that many people have today. Improved flexibility can improve your performance in aerobic training, strength training, and at sports, but is often overlooked in training routines. It also helps improve your posture through better muscular balance and reduces soreness and stiffness.
So if flexibility is so important, what’s the best way to improve yours? There are several ways to improve your flexibility. Stretching CONSISTENTLY helps a lot, but you also need to keep an eye on your diet and nutrition. Eating junk food and snacking on fatty and sugary snacks can make matters worse, so make sure to combine a clean, balanced diet (full of fresh fruits and vegetables). Some people advocate taking supplements to promote flexibility as well, but you know I think getting the nutritional from the food source is the way to go.
You may think stretching is a no brainer, but lots of people don’t stretch effectively and don’t get the full benefits. Read below for 5 TIPS to take your stretching to the next level.
5. Make it a part of your routine
Stretching is just like any other component of fitness. If you’re not consistent you won’t see #realRESULTS. Make sure to stretch AT LEAST once a day. Even if it is not part of an exercise regimen, there are several simple stretching exercises that you can do at your desk or even in front of the TV. If time is short, focus on stretches that work the larger muscle groups such as shoulders, hamstrings, hips, glutes, quads, lower back, and calf muscles. It is these areas that are most prone to stiffness.
4. Get em while they’re HOT!
Stretching your muscles while they’re cold is a recipe for disaster. If you try to stretch out when your muscles are not warmed up you could suffer from a pulled or teared muscle and out yourself out of commission for a while. A good way to warm up is to spend a few minutes doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, or jogging lightly. Also forget the common misconception that you have to stretch BEFORE your workouts only. Stretching after your workouts (especially if you’ve just done some heavy lifting or sprinting) is critical to ensuring that your muscles won’t stiffen up and that your getting the proper circulation you need to rebuild those muscle fibers.
3. It’s not a race
Really take your time with your stretching. By rushing, you won’t get the full benefit of the exercise and may even hurt yourself. You should aim to hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds (if not more). I usually go for around 30 seconds if possible and DO NOT bounce while you are stretching. Go as far as you can and then SLOWLY push yourself farther. You will not be able to go as far as you want at the beginning, but by working slowly, day after day, you will see #realRESULTS.
2. Find your inner NAMASTE
Yoga is not a frou-frou type of exercise or a fad. It is an effective way to complement your exercise routine for greater flexibility and relaxation. Unlike most other physical exercise that work only on a physical level, yoga involves both your mental and physical capabilities. There is a balance of energy between the body and the brain as well as increasing your flexibility, toning your muscles, and improving your lung capacity. All basic yoga poses work towards increasing the flexibility of the body so that it is capable of performing more complicated poses as time goes by. Check out a yoga class at your nearest studio and be sure to research the different types to choose the style that is best for you.
1. Get help from an expert
Just like with all forms of exercise, proper form and technique is key to make sure you’re performing stretches effectively and safely. Find a trainer/yoga instructor/physical therapist to teach you proper technique. If you’re already going to a trainer, ask them to stretch you out at the end of your session. A professional can ensure that you’re pushing yourself enough to gain good flexibility without overdoing it.