Stretch or Die!

Why doing a little downward dog could be exactly what your fitness regimen is missing


“Choose stretching over stressing” — Unknown

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.

Yes…the headline is a tag bit extreme, but I wanted to get your attention.

Listen, I’m not a stretch guru and would in no way profess to know very much about yoga.

I had one class with a previous co-worker of mine in which we did hot yoga, and I absolutely thought I was going to pass out after about twenty minutes…pretty f*cking intense!

However, I would say that in my 41 years on this planet, I have come to realize that you feel a lot better when you consistently get a stretch in to loosen muscles than when you avoid stretching like you do eye contact with the homeless guy who’s always standing at the intersection of the QT on your way home (don’t look that way…don’t look that way…don’t look that way).

The reality is that there are two very significant benefits of stretching that should make you consider adding it to your workout regimen, and it’s surprisingly not hard to do at all.

Let me explain in detail.

Stretching helps keep your muscles loose and decreases pain

After each workout, if you want to prevent that stifling pain of not being able to walk or get off the toilet (you haven’t had a REAL leg day if you haven’t experienced that before), stretching can help.

By stretching, you give your body a much better chance to recover by giving your muscles a chance to “breathe” to do so.

It does so by increasing the blood flow throughout the body and various specific areas that are in the process of adjusting to the stress you put on it during your workout.

When we work out, our body builds up lactic acid that contributes to the feeling of having sore muscles. Stretches help reduce that accumulation and tend to relax the muscles, so they don’t become so tense and make it hard for us to move later.

It prevents injury in the future

This isn’t something that should only take place immediately following a workout either, as a recent 2018 study uncovered that DAILY stretching led to overall better circulation in muscle as well.

This is especially true as we age, as the body does not circulate our blood flow in the same constant manner that it did when we were younger. This is one of the reasons that we have a tendency to hurt ourselves much easier as we age.

It’s almost as if the oil in the car doesn’t get around to all the different parts as quickly anymore. You got to warm that engine up now before you want to get it on the road if you don’t want anything to break down.

Stretching helps prevent this and keeps our muscles supplied with the oxygen it needs to continue to grow and prevent us from hurting ourselves stepping off a curb…which seems to be one of the most frequent bizarre injuries that can happen when you’re older, believe it or not.

It only takes 5–10 minutes a day (if that)

In regards to how much stretching is needed, the answer is very minimum. You can see the two major benefits listed above by only stretching 5–10 minutes per day.

I know we all live busy lives in which it seems that we don’t have time to close our garages when we leave (does anyone else forget to do this more time than they would care to admit?), so how can we find any extra time to stretch.

The reality is that it only takes a very small amount of time (as little as five minutes) to realize some benefit from this activity.

In the time it’ll take you to explain to someone why you didn’t stretch today because of all the things you have on your plate, you could be actually stretching for the day.

It’s pretty simple.

If you can find add as little as five minutes to the end of your daily work or in the morning before you leave for the day, you will have done what is required to see major benefits down the road.

And while this is something that might seem tedious and a bit of a waste of time when you’re younger, when you’re older and do NOT need help getting up from the couch, you’ll thank yourself for doing it.