When you love exercising but hate stretching
Remember supermodel Cindy Crawford who was famous for her challenging workouts with personal trainer Rado whose nickname was “the killer whale”? In a recent interview, she shared how much she’d changed her approach towards exercise over the years. She went from working out until utter exhaustion, to now prioritising being injury free. Currently in her mid-fifties, she’s added much more stretching and Pilates to her exercise routine.
If you are into sports, the gym (especially bootcamp type of workouts), rugby, running, dancing or anything else that’s highly intensive, chances are you probably avoid stretching. Here at Good Stretch, we’re on a mission to change people’s attitude towards stretching. One of our Founders, Anastasia Abakumova, has a background in personal training. She’s always loved strenuous HIIT classes, running and weight training. The one thing she used to always avoid was stretching. However, after an injury which made her unable to exercise for five months, she gave stretching a go. She realised how important stretching is in preventing injuries from sports or incorrect posture when working from home, and how it helps with back pain. Ana saw first hand that you can really become more flexible when you stretch regularly.
Benefits of stretching for athletes and active people
If you’re not convinced that you should give stretching a go, we’ll do our best to show you all the benefits.
1. Improves posture
Poor posture can easily be reversed and healed with daily stretching. Stretching can improve your posture and undo the damage caused by long hours of working on your laptop – your body posture will be less slouched and more vertical. Stretching strengthens your muscles and encourages correct alignment.
2. Improves circulation by increasing blood supply
Most people know that stretching increases blood supply, but they do not realise that it also increases the nutrient supply to muscles. Because stretching allows the blood to flow through your body, the nutrients in the blood are being carried and spread out throughout your whole body as well. An increased blood and nutrient supply also helps reduce muscle soreness.
3. Reduces stress
Many people carry stress in their muscles. When feeling overwhelmed, muscles tighten acting as a defensive strategy. The more you stretch, the less tense your muscles will be. Stretching is a very effective form of stress management.
4. Improves performance at work
Stretching provides your mind with a mental break. It allows you to recharge and refresh the blood flow throughout your body. As a result, you feel calmer and more peaceful and get more things done at work. Your performance improves because you’re more focussed.
5. Reduces lower back pain
When you improve the flexibility in your whole body, your muscles work much better. If your hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles attached to the pelvis are stretched regularly, that relieves the stress in the lumbar spine, which in turn reduces your risk of lower back pain.
6. Relieves post-workout soreness
Stretching helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains (DOMS). After any type of workout, stretching your muscles helps keep them loose and lessens the shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains. This reduces your risk of injury. A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured if you have to make a sudden move.
7. You become more flexible
The more you stretch, the more you move your muscles, and the more flexible you become. Over time, stretching will become easier for your body which will result in improved flexibility.
8. Increases your energy levels
Because stretching increases the blood and nutrient flow throughout the body, you end up feeling very refreshed. Your energy levels will increase and you’ll feel invigorated.
See, you don’t need high intensity exercises to feel refreshed and full of energy!
One stretching session won’t grant you the incredible mobility and flexibility that you crave. Daily habits are what actually creates progress in this field, so be sure to keep up the consistency and try to improve your abilities a little bit every day. Try starting out with stretching before your training session, and eventually you can increase this to daily stretching.
Top 10 exercises: add stretching to our routine
We’ve put together 10 exercises that are great for athletes and active people.
1. Frog Stretch, also called Kneeling Deep Groin Stretch
- Place your palms and knees on the floor as shown in the picture below.
- Slowly widen the legs so that they’re outside your shoulders.
- You can place cushions under your knees to feel more comfortable.
- Keep your buttocks in line with your knees.
- Keep your core engaged and breathe normally
The frog stretch is amazing for your groin and for stretching the muscles along the front of your thighs. It’s commonly used by dancers but it’s also great for climbers and other athletes who need a wide range of motion in their hips, as it helps with hip flexibility.
2. Runner’s Lunge (or Kneeling Hip Flexor)
- Slowly move your body into a lunge position.
- Ensure your right knee is in line with your right ankle.
- Place a cushion under your left knee.
- Engage your core.
- You can use a chair for extra support.
- Lift your left leg up.
- Use your right arm or belt to hold your foot and pull it towards you.
Runner’s lunge is one of the most popular and beneficial stretches for athletes, especially runners.
3. Lateral Seated Bend
- In a seated position, extend one leg straight to the side as wide as comfortable while keeping your back straight.
- The other foot is facing your inner thigh.
- If you need additional support, place a cushion under your bum to elevate yourself slightly.
- Now lengthen your right arm over your head and reach sideways.
- Make sure your shoulders remain upright and your chest is out
- Repeat on each side.
4. Pigeon Pose
- Start in Downward dog.
- Balance your body weight on the left leg and lift your right leg up to the sky.
- Bend your knee towards your chest, lowering down your hips.
- Place your knee on the mat between your hands, closer to the right wrist.
- Your ankle rests towards the side, in front of your left hip.
- The closer you bring your right shin bone parallel to the short side of the map, the stronger the hip opener will be.
- Your left leg also comes down on the mat, straightening out backwards.
- Toes are pointing backwards and the soles are facing the ceiling.
Pigeon pose is a hip opener forward bend – a great stretch for anyone looking for more leg mobility. It stretches out the glutes and upper leg muscles that might compress and tense up during a long day of sitting.
5. Seated Glutes Stretch
- Sit forward on the edge of your chair.
- Make sure your back is neutral.
- Center your ribcage over your hips.
- Flex your right foot and try to keep your knee and leg as flat as possible.
- You should feel a slight stretch in the muscles of your outer hip.
- Think about folding your chest or heart toward your thighs and hold.
- Repeat on the other side.
6. Downward Dog
Downward Dog is a popular yoga pose that made its way into the stretching world quickly because it’s so beneficial for relieving tension while stretching several muscle groups. It stretches all along the backs of your legs, and it also takes a lot of tension out of your lower back and your shoulders.
- Start on all fours: your hands are placed under your shoulders, your knees under your hips. Fingers widely spread, middle fingers facing forward and parallel to each other.
- Rotate your shoulders to the outside and your elbows to the inside.
- Tuck your toes under.
- Press yourself with straight arms back into an inverted V, engaging your abdomen,
- Keep your spine long and straight. Stay with your knees slightly bent while lengthening your spine. Move your hips back and up towards the ceiling, chest moving towards the thighs.
- Balance your body weight between your feet and arms.
7. Chest and Shoulder Wall Stretch
- Stand with your right shoulder about a foot away from a wall.
- Reach your right arm back behind you and place your hand on the wall so that it is in line with your shoulder.
- Take a step closer to the wall to feel a stretch through your right shoulder and chest.
- Slightly rotate your chest outward to feel the stretch intensify.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
8. Iron Cross Stretch
This one is amazing for doing a full middle-body stretch. It lengthens the spine and stretches the sides of your hips. This is especially good for athletes who might experience hip stiffness or anybody struggling with lower back pain, as the twisting motion of this stretch can relieve lower back pressure.
- Start off by lying flat on the floor in a cross position so that you are forming the “T” shape.
- Arms out to the sides and legs together.
- Slowly kick one leg towards the opposite hand through a rotation in your lower back and hips.
- Hold onto this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
9. Kneeling Shoulder and Chest Stretch
- Grab a sturdy chair and kneel in front of it.
- Place your forearms on the seat facing down.
- Drop your chest slowly to ensure your hips are slightly higher.
- Engage your core & hold. Breathe normally and relax into the stretch.
This is great for releasing the tension in your shoulders and back, no matter whether you’re an office worker, a rugby player, a jogger or a cyclist, we all have tension in our shoulders.
10. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch is really good for stretching out the groin. The groin is one of the most commonly pulled muscles in sports, so it’s important to stretch it regulary.
- Sit on the floor or a prop with the soles of your feet pressing into each other.
- Lean forward.
- Try pushing your knees closer to the floor with your elbows
- Root down into your legs and sitting bones.
- Elongate and straighten your spine, tucking your chin in toward your chest.
- Hold for as long as it’s comfortable and repeat a few times.
Where should you start if you want to become more flexible?
We hope that we’ve managed to inspire you to try some of these stretches. Try including them as part of your other workouts, or as a standalone workout if you prefer.
If you have been avoiding cooling down after your workouts or not sure where to start, doing 10 min a few times a week is a good starting point. We offer classes that suit everyone’s needs so make sure to check our timetable. We also encourage you to try one of our stretches on YouTube to see how you feel, or check out our free trial offer!