Before I get into the rules, let’s go over the importance of stretching.
Flexibility is one of the three major components of physical fitness. But unfortunately, it’s often pushed to the side of the other two components, cardiovascular endurance and strength.
Your body works hard all day (assuming you are not the type to sit on the couch and eat Bonbons). Your muscles contract with every move you make. Everyday activities like lifting babies, bending to tidy up the floor, carrying groceries to the car or purposefully engaging your muscles during any type of workout, require movement and, therefore, muscle contraction. The more your muscles contract the tighter they become, which makes the importance of stretching even greater!
A goal in fitness is to achieve a balanced body composition. This means that muscle groups in the front of the body have to be equally as strong (or as weak…which is the less ideal option) as the antagonist (or opposing) muscle groups in the back of the body. And muscle groups on one side of the body have to be equally as strong as the muscle groups on the other side. This holds true for flexibility as well. A stretched and pliable muscle group in the front or side of the body needs to match its stretched and pliable antagonist muscle group.
You may not realize it, but your daily activities can cause muscles to stretch and their antagonist muscles to contract and tighten. One common example of this is sitting. Whether you have a seated desk job, a long commute to work, or just like to sit for long amounts of time, the muscles down the back of your body (low back and butt) are being pulled into that seated position. This results in the antagonist hip flexor muscles to be in a constant state of contraction and become tight, contributing to an unbalanced body composition. This imbalance leads to poor posture and may even cause low back pain. (Does this scenario sound familiar? Find out how panaway can help!) Stretching the hip flexor muscles is crucial in this situation.
Research on flexibility and best stretching practices remain ongoing. There are, however, basic principles that most fitness professionals abide by. It is suggested that, whether or not you have exercised, stretching should be done every day for best results in flexibility and to help prevent injury. Stretching before and during a workout should focus on the muscle groups being targeted during the workout to decrease stiffness. Stretching after a workout should be used to elongate the muscle while it is warm and more pliable. Doing 2-4 sets of each stretch and holding it for at least 15-30 seconds is recommended.
Here are 3 rules to follow when stretching:
Your stretch should hit the targeted muscle. Sound like a silly rule, but, since all of our bodies are made up differently, you may need to slightly adjust the positioning of your stretch until you feel the stretch in the correct spot. As with most fitness principles, do not take the “one size fits all” approach when stretching. If the suggested stretch is not working for you, try a different one!
Your stretch should be done slowly and gently. If you move into a stretch too quickly or too deeply, your body will react by contracting that muscle as a defense mechanism, thinking it’s protecting you against a possible injury. (Aren’t our bodies amazing?!) Instead, bring yourself into a stretch with control and allow time for your body to realize what’s going on.
Your stretch should not cause pain. Of course, some stretches will be uncomfortable, especially when stretching tighter muscles, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you feel pain in your muscle or nearby joint, you may not be performing the stretch properly. Slowly and carefully start the stretch again, remembering to never put extra pressure on your joints. If the pain continues, try a different stretch.
Want to know how to make your stretch even more effective? Try adding essential oils!
It’s always a good idea to be as relaxed as possible while stretching. Reducing the tension and stress on your muscles will help reduce the tightness and make stretching even more effective.
These Young Living essential oils can help you feel relaxed and calm. All of the following oils can be diffused, added to Epsom Salt baths, or applied topically to specific muscles.
Lavender is used for many reasons, but is well known as a relaxant. Its aroma alone sets a calming and relaxing mood. Applied topically, lavender can also help to soothe sore muscles and release tension.
Frankincense is a single oil, that is commonly used for spiritual awareness and meditation. It also promotes muscle relaxation, which makes it great to use while stretching.
Stress Away is an oil blend that consists of copaiba, lime, cedarwood, vanilla, ocotea and lavender essential oils. Besides its delicious smell, it aids in reducing stress! When diffused, it can promote a feeling of peace and serenity. When applied topically to a specific muscle, it works to reduce muscle tension and tightness.
Peace & Calming is a blend of tangerine, orange, ylang ylang, patchouli and blue tansy essential oils. It holds true to its name! Peace & Calming fosters a sense of tranquility. It can also help to calm an overworked muscle, when massaged into that muscle.
Valor is a blend of spruce, rosewood, blue tansy, and frankincense essential oils. This blend was designed to promote confidence and courage, but it also works to encourage a sense of equilibrium throughout your body. This equilibrium can help reduce stress and tension.