For many of us, myself included, fear is why we don’t do many of the things we need to do to be healthy, to be successful or to be happy. For example there was a period in my life when I didn’t stretch as I should have because I was afraid. Afraid of what, I couldn’t say.
Then I made some major changes in my life, starting with kicking a few nasty addictions and getting a life coach. My coach as awesome and from him I learned to make stretching a priority in my life; not just for my muscles but also for my overall well-being. From that moment on, stretching has been something I do daily.
Most of the time we think of stretching as something to be done surrounding workouts, but the truth is that there are many reasons that you should be stretching on a regular basis.
Improved Circulation. Stretching helps increase the flow of blood to the muscles, which nourishes them and gets rid of unwanted waste. A better blood flow means you won’t get side-lined or depressed after an injury, because you’ll heal much faster.
Better Heart Health. Recent clinical studies have found that stretching improves arterial function and reduces blood pressure. A healthy heart creates a healthy mind and a healthy body.
More Flexibility. Sitting at a desk all day can leave you feeling stiff and cranky, which is a recipe for poor health and a bad attitude. When your muscles are tight your body is more susceptible to injury and you’re less likely to engage in regular physical activity. A daily stretch for 15 to 20 minutes can get your body in prime condition to work out, play a sport or go for a long hike.
Balance & Coordination. Stretching every day will reduce your risk of falls and other trauma by improving your balance and coordination.
Stress Relief. Stretching allows you to take time for yourself and forget about the mistake you made at work or the argument with your spouse, and focus on expelling the negative energy from your mind and your body.
Just Do It
It’s easy to promise that on this day you’ll begin a stretching regimen, but it isn’t quite as easy to do it. Start slowly with 5 minute stretches and make it a special time for you. Get a nice and comfortable set of workout clothes to facilitate easy stretching and get an exercise mat. Light candles or incense and find some relaxing music to get you in the mood.
Each week add 5 minutes to your stretching regimen until you’ve reached an hour. Some people find stretching a relaxing form of exercise, which is why they rely on yoga or Pilates as their main source of physical activity.
The main goal of stretching is to relax the muscles, so you need to make sure that no matter how much (or how little) time you spend stretching, each part of your body is being sufficiently stretched. Focus on a major muscle group at a time, making sure to stretch muscles on both sides of the body.
Avoid bouncing when you stretch as this can cause small tears to form in the muscle. When these tears heal, you’ll notice that your muscles are even more tense than they were previously, which reduces flexibility and increases pain.
Finally, stretching should not produce pain. If you feel pain you have stretched too far for your current ability. Pull back slightly until you feel your muscles pull but not to the point of pain.
Stretching does require time, but think of it as your “me time” and you’ll find it easier to do regularly. Stretch at least 3 times each week to reap the benefits; do it every day and notice how positive your outlook becomes!
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