Stretching is a great way to prepare for your workout, increase flexibility, prevent injury and relax post-workout. Stretching can be practiced everyday. Try to hold each stretch for a minute or longer.
1. DRESS COMFORTABLY – Wear clothes that you can move in easily and do not limit your range of motion. Breathable cotton is preferable to synthetic cloth.
2. STRETCH SLOWLY – Move slowly in and out of stretches. Do not bounce in the stretch because this can actually signal the muscle to contract and defeat the purpose of the relaxation element to stretching. Focus on relaxing the body part you are stretching. Close your eyes if you like and remember to breathe evenly and slowly.
3. PRACTICE ABDOMINAL BREATHING – Learn to breathe from your diaphragm, so that your stomach expands with the breath instead of your rib cage and shoulders. Try to keep the length of the inhale and exhale even. Use the inhale to lengthen the muscle being stretched and the exhale to further relax it. Abdominal breathing encourages relaxation, lessens muscle tension and helps lower blood pressure.
4. LEARN YOUR “STRETCHING ZONE” – Work within your own stretching limitations. Stretch gradually to the point that you feel a resistance in the muscle but never to the point that you feel sharp pain.
5. EMPTY STOMACHS MAKE STRETCHING EASIER – Stretching will be easier and more pleasant if it is done on an empty stomach.
6. PRE- AND POST-WORKOUT STRETCHES – Never start right into a static stretch at the beginning of your workout without having warmed up the body through light movement (ie. Walking, jogging, range of motion activity). Dynamic stretching (light moving stretches) are best pre-workout when the muscles are not yet fully warmed up. Stretching post-workout is very important. Muscles tend to tighten up post-exertion and stretching after a workout promotes circulation and minimizes muscle stiffness from lactic acid build-up. If you don’t have time to stretch all your muscles post workout, make sure you stretch those you work during your workout.