Flexibility is one of the most important aspects of physical fitness that most people neglect. Flexibility helps keep our bodies in harmony, reduce the chance of injury, diminish aches and pains, and enhance our physical longevity. Practically every soreness or discomfort in our body can be alieved through increased flexibility. Not to mention that there’s a clear correlation between flexibility and increased performance in sports and fitness.
How do we achieve our optimal flexible state? Like all things, it takes consistency. Just like how getting into shape takes consistent training, it is the same with stretching. Stretching isn’t always easy to do. Especially if you’re born naturally inflexible as I am. But because of this lack of natural flexibility, it forced me to optimize my stretching routine to get the best results quickly. If it works for me and these tight muscles, then it must work for others.
If you wanted to get stronger, don’t expect one workout to change your body composition. If you wanted to become a better endurance runner, don’t expect one 10K to increase your endurance. If you wanted to become more flexible to alleviate your aches and pains and to increase performance, don’t expect one stretching session to help do so. Although in the short term it may feel like it is helping, long term it is not unless there is consistency. Throughout my college basketball career and into adulthood, I’ve found that a short stretching session consistently every day works much better than a hardcore strenuous stretching session once every few days. Muscles, ligaments, and joints take a long time to slowly stretch out. Like braces on teeth, one night of tight braces doesn’t fix anything. It requires slow and consistent pressure over a long period of time. And that’s the concept we want to bring to stretching. We want light pressure on a consistent daily basis.
I like to do my stretching right before bed. My routine only takes about five minutes to complete. It’s important to be honest with yourself and assess your most vulnerable parts of your body. For me for example, it’s quite clear that my hamstrings, hips, and back are my most critical issues among others. So, I focus on these areas before bed. There’s nothing that says before bed is the best time to stretch, but for me it’s become part of my bedtime routine. This makes it easy never to neglect. Some people prefer to stretch before or after every workout and that’s fine. But for me, I don’t workout everyday so if I stuck to that philosophy then I would skip stretching as well. Doing my stretches before bed makes it easy for me to remember to stretch. It also feels great when I climb into bed because my body is all relaxed and calm. My body is no longer tense from whatever threw at me that day and I can rest easy. Find the best way to incorporate stretching into your daily habits.
Stretching isn’t a one-off thing. It’s not something that you can do once in a while and expect results. It takes consistent discipline. Doing a little each and every day is the best way to build up flexibility. Doing so will increase muscle performance and longevity, ease aches and pains, and ensure your body is working in harmony with itself. Having a long list of aches, pains, and injuries in my past, it’s easy to say that I wish I worked on my flexibility more often. Now that I have learned my lesson, I do something every day to enhance this part of my physical wellbeing. It’s important to be discipline and work stretching into your daily practices. It’s better to constantly stretch out the muscles with slow and consistent pressure rather than an aggressive stretching session every so often. This way, your body will have time to adapt and really make some long term changes.
What’s your favorite stretching advice?