“Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.”
This quote is one of my all-time favorites because it not only applies to our mental state, it’s also so appropriate for our physical bodies. When it comes to an effective fitness program, the importance of flexibility is often overlooked because it’s not a big calorie burner, but there are so many reasons flexibility should be an integral part of your routine. For example, tight muscles can lead to imbalances in the body which may contribute to a limited range of motion or possible injury. Stretching regularly can help you maintain mobility that may help improve your performance during those tougher, calorie-blasting workouts.
If you aren’t already including regular stretch sessions in your workout schedule, this is the time to start, and we’re here to assist! We created this month’s “Reach Your Stretching Goal Pledge” to encourage you to set (and achieve) your personal flexibility goal.
*Please note these are general recommendations for someone who isn’t regularly stretching. If you are already incorporating regular flexibility training into your routine, feel free to set your sights on a higher number of sessions per week. (Pro tip: You can stretch 7 days a week if you like!)
First, let’s review a few helpful stretching tips to help you get started:
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU STRETCH EACH WEEK?
The great news is that as little as 6–10 minutes of static stretching a few times a week can be beneficial, so it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task to include more flexibility-focused work into your already busy schedule.
If you aren’t currently doing any stretching, aiming for 1–2, 10-minute sessions a week is a good place to start. Each week you can add more sessions or increase the duration.
If you know you won’t ever have the time to do a full 20–30 minutes in one session, don’t worry. You can break it up into shorter, more manageable time blocks, or simply do a more focused, 5–10 minute stretch on busy days (or, even just start your day with this single, full-body stretch). The key to success here is to finding a way to fit your flexibility time without stress.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO STRETCH?
Stretching can be done whenever you like (and can fit it in) — morning, noon or night. In fact, it’s a great way to wind down your day — some studies found that yoga in the evening may help you sleep more soundly, but the best time to stretch is the time you’ll actually do it.
Depending on what type of stretching you’ll be focusing on, you may or may not need to warm up beforehand. More dynamic mobility work (such as certain types of yoga or Pilates) can be done on its own, while static stretching (stretches held for 30–60 seconds at a time) is better performed after a workout (or at least after a full-body warmup).
WHAT KIND OF STRETCHING SHOULD YOU DO?
Here’s where you’ll want to personalize your plan and schedule sessions that are most appropriate for your body and your goals. For example, if you play a specific sport, you may want to design a plan that incorporates mobility exercises to improve your range of motion and performance.
Or, if you travel often and experience tightness in certain areas (such as your hips, neck, back, etc.), you may want to focus more on specific static stretches that target those key areas. But, if you just need assistance getting started somewhere, check out the list of session ideas below (and, for more helpful flexibility tips, be sure to check out these 5 common stretching mistakes and 5 ways to make stretching more effective).