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Get the Most Out of Stretching Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2008 get the most out of stretching, follow these simple guidelines, which apply to all methods of stretching.

I recommend you to stretch on a daily basis, or at least 3 times per week. You improve your flexibility the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice. Your muscles will remember to stay loose and flexible if they’re reminded often enough, but keep in mind this comes in time. Consistency is key, trust me.

Start and finish
You should stretch before and after your workout. Whether if you’re doing weight training or aerobic training, do these both. During the days of your weight lifting sessions, do at least 5 minutes of low impact, low intensity aerobic exercise such as walking or slow jogging. This will get the blood pumping through the body. By warming up properly, your body temperature raises when the blood starts to get going. And by doing so, your muscles are more receptive to the stretch. You should never stretch a cold muscle.

How low should you go?
Stretch to the point at which you’re right on the edge of discomfort, never to the point of “Ouch!” Never force a stretch. There’s no optimal amount of flexibility, so stretch within the limits of each individual joint.

Don’t wait to exhale
Don’t forget to breathe. Deep, natural breathing increases your flexibility by helping you relax and by sending oxygen rich blood into your muscles. Inhale deeply just before you go into a stretching position, and exhale through your mouth as you move into the stretch. Breathe deeply several times as you hold the stretch.

Focus is key
Don’t just go through the motions and declare, “There I’ve stretched!” Concentrate. Focus. Do you feel the stretch where you’re supposed to? Are you using correct form? Do you need to back off or push a little further? You don’t need to quiz yourself with the intensity of a prosecutor; stretching is supposed to be relaxing after all.

An all-round stretch
Give priority to the muscles you use the most in your workouts and in everyday life, but don’t neglect any major muscle group. For instance, cyclists should perform a few extra sets of stretches on their thighs, calves, and lower back, but they shouldn’t skip upper body stretches altogether. You want your entire body to be flexible so that you can reach across the bed to snag the remote control from a spouse who inexplicably watches reruns of “The Iron Chef” on Food Network.

Ririan is a student in Bucharest, Romania. He reads books, blogs and websites about productivity, personal development, health, nutrition, leadership and GTD. He hopes that by sharing his own personal experiences that it will help make steps towards creating a better life, day by day, for others. For more of his thoughts visit the Ririan Project on
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