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Improve Your Flexibility

Anytime is a good time to get more flexible, but February is particularly good as we tend not to be as active in the Winter months, but Spring is around the corner.  Taking the time now to get into a good stretching routine will help you soon enjoy those outdoor activities again.

Improving flexibility through stretching is the most commonly thought of form of exercise to prevent injury, recover from injury, as well as improve health and well-being.  Yet, it is so often misunderstood, improperly performed, or at least ineffectively performed. 

Most people only stretch when they have a problem, which can be a problem

There are many ways to improve flexibility from basic static stretching, ballistic stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular stretching techniques (sounds cool right) and others.
It’s beyond the scope of this article, but if you’re  interested in learning more about stretching and the varied techniques, visit
www.StretchBetterWithPT.com

The following are some misconceptions and technique tips that are relevant to most kinds of stretching.

“I’m Just Not Flexible.”  True.  Some people are more flexible than others.  The irony is that people who are not flexible tend to avoid stretching as it is hard to see or feel any benefits right away.  Conversely, people who are already very flexible don’t even realize that they are and tend to overstretch, possibly constantly chasing the feeling of getting a good stretch. 

If you are not flexible, don’t give up. You can improve.  You just need to know which approach is best for you.  If you do stretch a lot but never quite get the stretch you’re after, that means you’re too flexible.  You would benefit from activities that may make you more stable.

When To Stretch And For How Long?:
Stretching is like eating right, taking vitamins or flossing.  It doesn’t take a ton of effort, but needs to be done consistently every day to improve and maintain the benefits.  Stretching first thing in the morning will help you improve your movement, as well as mood throughout the day.  Stretches need to be held for at least 30 seconds.  You can create your own simple routine starting with your feet and moving in each direction the joint allows.  Hold for 30 seconds and then work your way up each joint.

When Not To Stretch:  Definitely DO NOT stretch immediately following an injury.  I see this so often. Someone pulls a hamstring and they immediately go to stretch it out.  The reason that they pulled a “hammy” in the first place is because they never stretch them.  Now after an acute injury that hamstring, or any muscle, is the most fragile with torn fibers.  This is not the time to stretch it.  This is like trying to repair a rope with torn fibers by pulling on it!!  Unless given specific clearance from a medical professional like a Physical Therapist or an MD, you should not stretch an injured muscle for at least two weeks after the injury.  

No Pain No Gain Right? Wrong! Your body has systems to protect itself.  If there is pain, your body tenses up and won’t allow for a good stretch.   Think of stretching like pulling taffy; you want to pull slowly and consistently, let your body relax, breathe into it and take what it gives you.  The sensation that you should be seeking is, well… a stretch.  It may be a bit uncomfortable, but should not cause pain.  The goal is to maximize the benefits of stretching and minimize the effort and chance of getting hurt.

While having helped thousands of people improve their flexibility with a customized flexibility program, I’ve probably prescribed tens of thousands of stretches.  Just providing a list  of stretches would not  be beneficial, as everyone has their own flexibility, ability and challenges.  We would love to help you individually and specifically.

Visit www.StretchBetterWithPT.com to register for your FREE Flexibility Assessment, learn more of the many beneficial techniques of stretching and make sure you’re stretching correctly.

Give us a call at 973-270-7417 or stop by our office at the Madison Area YMCA.

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