Here’s Why This Fitness Trainer Always Insists On Stretching
Your trainer was right to nag you about stretching. Stretch, stretch, stretch!
Stretch...this word was NOT a friend of mine for a long, long time. Back when I was young and not as smart (although who doesn’t think they are the smartest at that age), agile, and with age on my side, I shunned the word and the thought of wasting my precious time on stretching! Of course, age, experience, and (a wee bit of) wisdom changed my view on it. Now – stretching is my best friend! Even if I miss a workout, I make sure I don’t miss my stretch time.
Add to that the fact that practically all of us spend crazy long hours sitting – stuck in traffic, behind desks, in meetings, or in flights – we all experience stiffness in certain areas. Till our late 20s, we have the luxury of being flexible, and having more stamina. That changes as we hit our 30s. Typically, you experience stiffness in your necks, shoulders, hips, and lower back.
I have lived with a lower back problem since I was very young (being an over-enthusiastic diver, doing back somersaults, dives without any coaching...a.k.a. glutton for punishment). I started worrying more about it in my late 20s. The pain resurfaced during my pregnancy. Sitting all day at my desk would make me feel like I needed to dismantle my body parts like one does toys, in order to feel better! Even then, I thought stretching was only necessary post a really tough workout. Instead, my body defied my brain, and started demanding it. I started noticing cats, dogs, and even babies stretching all the time (not just after waking up), and realised they were all onto something big that I had completely missed.
So why is stretching so good/important, and what does it do?
- It helps muscles regain elasticity.
- It helps improve your blood circulation.
- It helps wash out the lactic acid that builds up in your body after exercise.
- It helps you take the time out to cool your body down after a workout, and thus avoid injury.
I swear by stretching, and if you speak to my clients and the athletes I work with, they will admit to being converted. In fact, with my athletes and sports players, I insist on them cutting out a few days of training a week and make them stretch for longer on those days. And they will tell you that their injuries have reduced drastically.
It’s important for everyone to do a few stretches as below:
i) Up and down.
ii) Semi-circles, forwards and backwards – 10-12 times each (never do full circles – they can hurt your neck).
iii) Side to side.
Shrugs – Lift shoulders up and down 10-12 times.
Wide arm circles – Forwards and backwards, 15-30 seconds each.
Spine – Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart, and raise arms straight overhead. Get onto your toes and look up, holding the stretch for 10-20 seconds.
Hips – Step forward with one leg, bend that knee, and keep it over the ankle, while stretching the back leg without bending that knee. The front of the hip of the back leg should get a good stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds/ leg.
Eyes – Give your eyes a break from your computer/phone screen every hour for 2-3 minutes.
Doing these stretches twice a day will make you feel fresh all day long. Those aches and pains you’re starting to live with will start melting away, and you will feel amazing!