If only you could go back in time and stop your injury from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, the past is out of your control. But you can control how quickly your good-health future gets here.

How? By stretching well, often, and for the right amount of time. If you’re interested in knowing the benefits of stretching – and how to do it just right, then read on!

Stretching 101

If you’re a fitness freak you might think peak health it’s all about sweating and chart-topping heart rates. But you’d be wrong. Good health is about strength, agility, rest, and flexibility, too.

It’s stretching that can get you bigger gains in all of those areas. That’s especially true for anyone recovering from injury. Let’s check out the key benefits of stretching.

The Benefits of Stretching

Recovering from an injury? Want long, lean muscles? You want to be stretching and stretching right.

Here’s what it can do for you.

1. Flexibility

The act of stretching takes a set muscle or muscle group to their limit and pauses. Done right, and often, it will increasingly push the limit of the muscle further. That means being able to touch your toes, my friend, it means flexibility!

2. Muscle Strength

Muscles with a restricted movement have restricted load capacity, that is, they lack strength. By increasing the range of their movement and their elasticity through careful, regular stretching, you effectively increase their strength.

3. Mindfulness

Take the time several times a day, to sit and stretch gently. Doing this, focusing on how your body feels in each stretch and each session, gets you more than flexible muscles. It makes you more in-tune with what you’re feeling, it brings you mindfulness.

Sometimes when people think of meditation they imagine old monks in a cave thinking of nothing at all for hours. In reality, meditation – or mindfulness – is about bringing your focus to something, rather than about clearing the mind of absolutely everything.

It might be your breathing, outside sounds….or feelings in your body that you bring your focus to. Yoga practice comes from the last of these. So go ahead and stretch, for your body just as much as for your mind.

4. Ease Pain

Ever felt that crick in your neck after an awful day at work or a tough drive? We tend to store tension in our muscles. For some, that’s the neck, for others the lower back or shoulders.

Stretching relieves the pain from stored tension and can help you shake off the stress after a long day.

5. Improve Range of Movement

Like anything, practice makes perfect. If you want to return to the range of movement you had pre-injury, or maybe in days of greater fitness, stretching is a good start. The muscle memory you form in your stretching routine will mean that, with time, your range of movement can return or greatly improve.

6. Speed Up Recovery

There was a time when all recovery meant being immobile, through excessive bed rest. We now know that good rehabilitation is a (gently) active one. Where muscles are stretched and worked to their ability.

Talk to your health professional about which stretches will be best for you in recovery, and make sure you don’t overdo it.

7. Get Better Posture

Standing tall, with your shoulders back and your head held high, you tell the world you believe in yourself. When you have good posture, you emit confidence, even gravitas. But it relies on all those lower back, upper back, neck, and shoulder muscles being strong and aligned.

If a sexy, confident posture appeals to you, best get stretching soon.

8. Better Sleep

Daily stretching means regular activity and mindfulness. And that means better at seep at night. We know sleep is critical to your recovery, so go get to it!

Doing It Right

So now we know that stretching can improve our range of movement, performance, and help your muscles work more effectively. But how should it be done? Here are some things to keep in mind to stay safe while stretching:

Stretch While Warm

Stretching cold can damage muscles. You’re better off taking a gentle walk or five minutes on a stationary bike before starting your stretches.

Be Even-Handed

Unless you like the idea of lopsided posture, it’s best to stretch evenly on each side of your body. Your injury will be sorer and weaker than the opposite side at first, but with time, you’ll get back to symmetry.

Gently Does It

Be careful to enter and exit each stretch gently and lovingly. Bouncing in and out of stretches puts you at risk of more tears or strains, which we’re not into!

Move it, Move it

Try creating a series of stretches that you flow in and out of. Tai Chi is a classic example of stretches combined with gentle, flowing movements. It’s a more functional style of stretching since it trains your body for strength while in motion.

Hold It Right There

Hold each pose for a minimum of 40 seconds wherever you are able. If you can, build up to holding it for a minute or more. You might want to look into Yin Yoga, which is a slow, stretching yoga where each pose is held for as long as possible, retraining muscle to be long and lean.

Stretch Under Supervision to Start

When you’re first starting out your rehabilitation, it’s a good idea to save your bigger stretches for treatment days. Having a physical therapist or accident doctor observe your stretching opens the opportunity for correction to your poses for maximum gains.

As you get stronger, they can push you further than you might be able to do on your own.

Routine Means Success

Build regular stretching into your day. Set a special alarm, or build your work timetable around stretching breaks. The more regularly you stretch, the greater gains you’ll get, and the sooner you’ll recover.

Pain Is Not Gain

We are stretching for strength and recovery here, not vying for an Olympic medal. That means, when your body gives you pain, listen, and back off a bit.

If you stretch to exhaustion and pain, you’re headed to an overuse injury, strain or tear. And we’d much rather see you headed toward recovery from injury.

Won’t I Do Damage?

If you’ve recently got the clearance to leave the hospital, you’ll understandably be feeling nervous about doing anything that might set you back in your recovery. As long as you follow the advice here about starting with supervision, going slowly, and doing it regularly, stretching is your friend, not your foe.

What Stretches to Do

The best stretches for you will depend on your particular injury. The general advice is to stretch all major muscle groups so you have the support and posture you need for top health. Ask your exercise therapist to make up a guide for you that you can follow.

If you’re further into recovery and considering a return to more exerting physical activities, it’s time to add another sort of stretching to your routine. Before you jog, swim, or cycle, do some dynamic warmup stretches. You’ll want to mimic the movement of the activity you’re about to do.

These sorts of stretches send a signal to the muscles you’re about to use. They also decrease the chance you’ll tear or strain the muscle by jumping straight into vigorous physical activity with cold, tight muscles.

Stretch the Distance Between Injury and Now

Every day you stretch you’re getting closer to pre-injury you. It’s not undoing the past or unliving your accident, but it’s the next best thing. Stretching can make you stronger, flexible, and healthier.

It can improve your posture, improving your self-confidence. And it’ll give you some time out each day, or several times each day, time to reflect, relax, get more mindful and focussed. So now that you know the benefits of stretching, and how and when to do it right, you’ve got no more excuses.

Start gently, and pick up the degree of difficulty by modest amounts. You’ll be feeling more like yourself in no time. If it’s motivation you’re having trouble with, rope in a friend.

Head to a gentle yin yoga session together a couple of times a week; you’ll be strengthening your muscles and your support network at once.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out the other lifestyle and health blogs on our website. If it’s about fashion or lifestyle, we’re writing about it!

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