You may already be aware that a stretching routine helps to keep muscles loose and pliable, decrease joint stiffness and increase mobility, and improve athletic performance. But are you at a loss for where to begin? Starting any new routine can be daunting, and I realize the internet and those Google searches can be full of misinformation and conflicting advice. Let me help you!
First of all, a stretching routine is important because it is just that: a routine. A routine is, by definition, “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. You’ll certainly notice a difference in how your muscles feel and how much easier it is for you to move when you stretch here and there. However, you’ll notice the biggest improvement in how you feel and move if your “once-in-a-while” stretching becomes a consistent, daily routine!
So what is important to focus on when you start a stretching routine? First, check with your doctor before starting anything new. After that, focus on the large muscle groups. These are the muscles you use all day for a variety of tasks. Stretch your hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves because these are the muscles you use when you’re going about your daily activities, walking around the neighborhood, or going up and down stairs. Stretch your shoulders and arms because you use these muscles to open doors, reach into cupboards, and carry bags of groceries. Finally, stretch your glutes, back, and neck because these are the muscles you use when you’re bending down to pick something off the ground, sitting down or getting back up from a seated position, turning your head, or looking over your shoulder.
Lastly, how long should you stretch? The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends holding each stretch for about 30 seconds to improve flexibility. So even taking just a few minutes (perhaps while your coffee is brewing in the morning!) to stretch the muscles you’ll be using throughout your day, will lead to long-lasting, impactful results. And stop by the studio if you need ideas on how to stretch these muscle groups too!