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Stretching keeps your muscles strong. Without stretching, your muscles actually do literally get shorter and tighter! This can damage your muscles and joints. Does it surprise you, to hear that stretching is something everyone should do every day, not just before you exercise or whatever? If you don't understand why a lack of daily stretching hurts your muscles and joints, think of it this way:
You're sitting down alllll day long. Then you go to stand up, and it's hard to straighten your legs, because your hamstrings are just so darn tight! So, now if you were going to do anything relatively strenuous — even just walking fast — then your muscles and joints could be damaged from the sudden activity without stretching.
You already knew that stretching is a good way to prevent injury…but that means you have to stretch EVERY single day. Not just before exercising!!
You should also know that getting more flexible, balanced, and feeling better isn't something that happens after one single stretch. But after stretching every day for a month, you'll start to feel your muscles really loosening overall and getting more flexible. You'll go from sitting trying to touch your toes and not even coming close (getting to your knees or shins or something), to being able to touch your toes during a hamstring stretch.
I feel like there is nothing more satisfying in the world than getting that stretch (other than, maybe being able to do a difficult PiYo move without getting winded)!
Okay, so now let's get to the main question we asked, "Which stretches are most important?"
Well, like I said, the hamstring stretch is a big one, because most of us do sit all day, and our hamstrings are dangerously tight. (Anything that involves you reaching down to touch your toes is a hamstring stretch!)
If you stretch your hamstrings, you should also do the opposite…stretching your quad muscles, so the muscles don't get imbalanced. You may think you don't exercise your quads in everyday life, so you don't need to stretch them…But if you are ever squatting, lunging, or going up a flight of stairs, you're using those quads, which means they need to be well STRETCHED!
Last but not least, you should really be stretching your hips. Most people have tight hip flexors, which is really dangerous, because they are the number one cause of back pain. (Which I know is pretty much the worst type of pain in the world!)
You want to eliminate the problem of stiff, tight hips by laying on your back, with knees bent. Then, bend one knee close to the chest, let it back down, and bend the other knee close to the chest. Keep alternating. Give it enough time, and this could eliminate minor back pains you have as well!
I want to help you find your best self, whether that's by sharing new health and fitness information I find with you, or by making you a member of my team or my accountability group. Does this sound like what you need to do to stay on track with your health and fitness goals?