Fact or myth: Spending 10 minutes per day stretching on the floor is key to keeping your muscles loose and healthy. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a myth! Yep, you heard me right. Stretching isn’t quite all that it’s cracked up to be. Today, I’m sharing something more effective that will keep you feeling loose, limber, and young.
The Problem with Static Stretching
Remember the days in gym class or high school sports when you’d circle up before a practice or class, sit down, and hold different stretches for 30-60 seconds each? I know I do. We all thought that we were doing a great job at preventing ourselves from getting hurt and improving our performance for practice. This is called static stretching. You get into a position, stretch for 30 seconds and repeat that a couple of times throughout different muscle groups.
If you’re looking to improve your performance in a workout or just feel better in daily life, this is actually NOT the most effective way to achieve that goal. In fact, static stretching before a workout can have the opposite effect—it can make you more likely to get injured. WHAT?!
Think about it. When you’re about to be active, are your muscles staying in one place? Not really. They need to move, react and respond to what you’re having your body do. Holding long stretches before an activity doesn’t prepare your muscles to work that way.
A Better Alternative to Static Stretching
Even if you aren’t preparing for a workout and just want to feel loose and limber for daily life, there’s a better way to help your body accomplish this and it’s called…drumroll please…active mobility, or dynamic stretching.
Active mobility and dynamic stretching mean that you are actively moving your body through its full range of motion. Think things like walking lunges, yoga flows, hip swings, twisting side to side, neck rolls, and shoulder circles. You move your body as far into a position as is comfortable, move to a different position, and repeat.
This type of mobility work prepares your body to perform how it needs to in life, which is always moving! Motion is lotion and our bodies are made to move. Whether it’s before a workout or a busy day, we want to prepare ourselves to move around, not stay in one place.
How do I Practice Dynamic Stretching?
There are a number of effective and easy ways to add active mobility to your life and my personal favorite is through yoga. Yoga flow classes are fantastic at getting your body moving in a variety of positions and repeating these movements so that your body progressively becomes more loose and limber. Here’s one of my favorite yoga videos that leaves me feeling energized and ready to conquer the day.
Not into yoga? I’d first invite you to just try it before deciding you don’t like it. You may find that you have a preconceived notion of yoga that may not be true in reality. So take 10 minutes and give it a go.
Still not feeling it? There are other ways to work on active mobility! Here are two great dynamic warm-ups you can do before a workout:
Want to loosen up your hamstrings specifically? Make this your go-to active mobility routine. This can help you touch your toes, even if you feel super far off from that right now!
Should I Ever Do Static Stretching?
There’s a time and place for static stretching, it just depends on what your goals are. If you want to feel loose, limber and at the top of your game in life, dynamic stretching is the way to go. It’s important to recognize that sometimes muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be truly shortened. This could happen after an ankle sprain, being in a cast or boot, or sitting most of the day for several weeks or months. In this case, holding long stretches can be beneficial.
It’s also a good idea to incorporate static stretching after a workout. Your body has just worked really hard and needs to wind down. Static stretching is a great way to help your body cool down and relax.
I hope I’ve opened your eyes to a world beyond static stretching so you can crush your goals! Give it a try and let me know what you think. Have specific questions or aches and pains getting in the way of your workout routine? Contact us to see how we can help!