How to Integrate a Stretching Session Into Your Day

In March , I tried to figure out if I could incorporate stretching into my fitness regime, and I love doing it . Nearly three weeks later, I’m still doing the exact same thing I described in my last post . Most of all during this time, I focused on consistency – I knew my biggest problem would be doing a stretch session (which takes about 15 minutes), as I find stretching boring and will find any excuse not to do it. But I learned a few things that helped me stick to my daily routine.

Find a time of day when you can relax

At first, I had a good deal: every evening I would head to my (home) office, where my exercise bike lives. I rode a bike, and then I did stretching. It worked really well the first week: I usually did a 15 minute bike workout (more if I had time), or five minutes as a warm up, followed by a few kettlebell snatches. By the time I started stretching, I was already warmed up and ready to go.

Postponing the stretching session to the end was a great way to allow yourself to relax and take your time. I didn’t have to rush to go to work or rush home to my kids. If I wanted to hang out a little longer in one place or another, I could do it. Sometimes I turned on the music. And this is not a fitness hack, but the following: stretching for a long time is actually nice when you are high. Try it somehow.

Set a timer

According to the instructions for the program I started with, you should do small light pushing movements, then stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat the process for 20 and 30 seconds. I found this plan almost impossible to follow. If I stretch for 10 seconds, I need a break, not a deeper stretch – and for some reason, stretches seem to get harder the longer I do them.

I think I know why: I expected to “relax” with each stretch, but if you relax, you will stop actively pulling towards the stretch. Contracting one muscle usually helps its antagonist (opposite muscle) relax, so passively forcing yourself into a certain position is not necessarily the best way to stretch.

The compromise I settled on is that I start a stopwatch at the start of each stretch and put the screen where I can see it. (I useonline-stopwatch.com ; a clock with a second hand will work too.) When I start stretching, I look at the timer and dedicate a full minute or more to this stretch. If I need to take a break for a second, so be it. If I can go deeper, great. If I have to back off, that’s okay too, as long as I still feel a slight stretch. I hold for a minimum of one minute for most stretches and two minutes for a select few, such as the pancake.

Remove barriers

In the second week, I noticed that I was doing fewer stretches, and if I missed it, it was usually for some stupid reason. Sometimes I didn’t feel like riding a bike, throwing away the whole routine. Was it worth stretching if I didn’t warm up first?

Once or twice I thought about doing a routine in my bedroom getting ready for bed, but I didn’t feel like looking for the PVC pipe I used to stretch my shoulders. (I mean it was upstairs .)

Those nights I told myself that most of the routine can be done and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. So I did some stretching in bed the other day. Instead of dislocating with PVC tubing, I tried prone raises. Instead of using a foam roller to stretch my upper back, I flipped over the edge of the bed. I skipped the knee lunge simply because I don’t like it. And I still do my stretching exercises.

Not half of it

I realize that my stretching program is not as ambitious as it was at the beginning. On the one hand, the program is designed to be done two to three times a week, with each stretch for a minute or more, and I’m still hitting that bare minimum. Barely.

It seems I need to go back to my own principles in order to stay consistent . One of them is “periodize and prioritize”, which means that I need to see this task through to the end, even if I plan to relax later. Another week or two, and there will be a whole month; I have a time that works, a routine that works, and I just need to stick with it a little longer so I can judge my results. So far, I feel that one or two exercises become easier, and the rest are as difficult as on the first day. When I started, I took a few “before” pictures, and soon I will take “after” pictures and look for objective signs of improvement. Wish me luck.

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