As has been this month’s topic: working smarter not harder is important if you want to get the best out of yourself – and when we work smarter we get more done in less time leaving us with time to exercise or relax.
Now it is really easy to relax, you may choose it sit in front of the television watching a favourite show or you may listen to some music, lay in a hot bath, chill out in a spa, there are thousands of things you can do to relax – but one method that is important and often overlooked is stretching.
Stretching is great because it has a dual effect (working smarter again see) – stretching not only lengthens tight muscles but the slower relaxed nature of stretching lowers your heart rate, slows your breathing and reduces some of the chemical effects of stress in the body.
Flexibility is one of the major components on fitness and yet it is probably the element everyone skips. As I said before stretching is great for lengthening tight muscles which can help to improve posture and restore proper joint function and correct any faulty movement patterns you may have.
Stretching can also reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) as you know the day or sometimes two or three after a hard training session, your muscles can feel a little worse for where. Stretching post event and even the next day has been shown to decrease the amount and severity of DOMS – meaning you recover faster.
Reducing stress is one of if not the best reason to start a stretching routine. Tight muscles hold and create tension in the body. This tension is blocked or is blocking energy from moving around, which can alter your posture and breathing patterns which further compound the problem. Holding stretches for 30 seconds to 1 or even 2 minutes while focusing on taking proper deep diaphragmatic breaths helps to move and unlocks this energy. This relaxed state slows your heart rate down, reducing stress and lowering your cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone that breaks down muscle tissue).
Finally you can “pretty much” stretch anywhere. You can stretch outside, inside, at the gym, at the office or just in front of the telly and anytime of the day. Another great thing about stretching is you don’t need any fancy equipment you can use yoga mat if you like but I find the carpet is just as good.