There was a time in my life when I dreaded stretching. In fact the mere thought of it brought tears to my eyes.
But I endured the torture day after day after day…
As a five year old growing up in Paris with dreams of attending one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world and becoming a “Petit Rat de l’ Opéra”, I learned early on to bear the pain and save my tears for the privacy of my bedroom.
No pain no gain right?
That was certainly the mindset back then. My bloody toes from breaking in my new points at seven spoke volumes to that.
By the age of 10 after 7 years of intense training I knew the life of a prima ballerina was not for me. As much as I loved to dance and relished those precious moments on stage, I did not want to endure the relentless torture and abuse from my teachers any longer.
I don’t think I would have believed you back then if you had told me that some day I’d enjoy stretching… But I do! In fact I crave it!
But it’s true, I love to stretch!
At 49 I’ve learned how much good stretching does for my body, mind and spirit and I’ve come to cherish my stretching time as a precious gift to myself. Stretching keeps me limber and graceful, provides most needed relief from long hours at my computer, and brings me peace of mind.
Oh but don’t get me wrong, I do not put myself through torturous rituals. No way no how! I’ve learned there are far healthier ways to stretch than to push my body past the point of pain and hold a stretch for minutes that feel like hours!
I’ve learned there are two very distinct ways of stretching — dynamic and static stretching, and how each one contributes to overall well being. Dynamic stretching should be done in the morning and before you workout, while static stretching should only be done after your workout, when your muscles are warmed up and much more resilient. Static stretching after your workout will restore muscle length and improve your flexibility.
I like to start my day with about 5 minutes of dynamic stretching. It’s a fabulous way to wake my body up, bringing blood flow to my muscles and brain, working out all the kinks from the night and putting a smile on my face! I start my day refreshed and energized, ready for all that awaits me.
Stretching Increases Blood Flow (Circulation)
Ever wake up feeling like you’d aged about 10 years? Everything feels stiff and achy? Most of us accept this as a normal part of life, the result of pushing a little too hard on a workout, or simply getting older. These aches and pains are the result of our lifestyle and a little daily stretching will quickly restore that spring in your step. Years of repetitive motion, extended periods of static posture (sitting at your computer) and chronic stress result in decreased or compromised blood flow and in turn, tension, pain and weakness. Daily stretching restore that beautiful length we all long for .
Stretching Increases Range of Motion and Reduces Risk of Injury
When we think fitness we tend to focus on the workouts — BURST, cardio, cross fit, Zumba, spinning, Body Weight Training, running… Those are all great and needed for optimum health but muscle overuse can lead to muscle fatigue and shortening. When muscles shorten our range or motion decreases significantly and a lot more stress is placed on our joints. Stretching promotes muscles resilience while stabilizing our joints and protecting them from injury.
Stretching Increases Energy Levels
With increased blood flow our cells take full advantage of the healthy nutrients we intake through our healthy food choices. Forget about that second cup of coffee. Take a five minute dynamic stretching break and you’ll breeze through your day with so much more joy!
Stretching Improves Posture
Ever noticed the gorgeous posture of a ballerina or a Pilates instructor? They stand with such grace and poise making every movement look elegant and effortless. That’s the beauty of regular stretching! Stretching leads to proper body alignment and in turn helps us stand tall and beautiful.
Stretching Reduces Tension (Stress)
As you breathe into a deep stretch you let go of all the tension you’ve been holding on to and that is the most amazing benefit of stretching!
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