Embracing change can be difficult. We are, after all, creatures of habit. Change requires patience, determination, and flexibility, both figuratively and, in some cases, literally! Why is flexibility so important? Well, for starters, the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to get injured, which is really enough of a reason in and of itself. As a bonus, flexible joints can also help make it easier to move, requiring less energy, and being flexible can also prevent back pain and balance issues.
Let’s start our year of flexibility and change off on the right foot with some basic suggestions to help you stretch and reach your full potential.
- If it hurts in a sharp shooting way, STOP!! Stretching helps to loosen up your muscles, and depending on how tight they are, there may be some soreness associated with stretching. However, it should never hurt in an unbearable sense. If it does hurt, either stop the stretch and try a different option, or ease out of the stretch slightly to make it less intense. Listen to your body, always.
- Aim to stretch at least three days a week. You may want to make it a routine in the evening when you get ready for bed, in addition to a post-workout stretching cool down. Find a routine that works for you, because even a few times a week is enough to reap the benefits!
- Target the parts of your body that need it most. Think about your hips, or your hamstrings, or your shoulders. Where are you sore on a regular basis that could use some loosening or opening up? Where do you notice that you hold your tension? If you aren’t sure where to begin, ask your doctor which stretches s/he would suggest for you.
- We all feel a bit better with a few good accessories, right? Invest in a decent foam roller and a good ol’ can of tennis balls. A foam roller can help you stretch more deeply than just bending or contorting yourself can and tennis balls are helpful for pinpointing specific tight spots and loosening up your feet and hands. It can be a little awkward to get the hang of using any of these tools to help you stretch, but don’t give up on it. YouTube has endless tutorial videos, so don’t be afraid to watch a few to ensure proper alignment before you start. Think of a foam roller as the best way to give yourself a mini-massage, no appointment or tipping required!
In this season of change, above all, remember to listen to your body – it is your greatest and most powerful teacher!