Photo courtesy Thosh Collins,
Chelsey Luger demonstrates a lower body stretch, careful to maintain posture and stability in Brooklyn, New York, 2014.

Well For Culture: Don’t Forget to Stretch!

Chelsey Luger

Flexibility is a key component to any functional fitness routine. No matter what type of workout you do, it is important to stretch. Having limber limbs feels good and looks cool. But more importantly, it’s really critical to your overall health and vitality.

There are countless benefits to stretching and maintaining flexibility, such as increased blood flow; stress relief; improved posture; reduced back and muscle pain; decreased risk of injury; and many, many more. Some consider stretching to be an optional or disposable component of a workout routine, and it often goes overlooked. Don’t ignore it! It’s so, so important.

I recommend that everybody incorporates a deep stretch into their daily life, even on rest days. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Stretching can be done anywhere! Here, Luger transforms a metal gate into a ballet barre while also demonstrating the flexibility of her moccasins (handmade by mom), utilizing them as streetwear/fitness gear in Brooklyn, New York, 2014. Photo courtesy Thosh Collins,

1. Understand Dynamic Stretch vs. Static Stretch… and try both!

A dynamic stretch entails working the joints and muscles through a repetitive, challenging motion, allowing the body to ease further into the movement with each attempt. Athletes and runners often use these stretches to prevent injury. These require careful attention to form. Dynamic stretching can be done prior to or after a workout. It is great for activating muscles, improving functional movement, and relieving stiffness.

A static stretch entails slower, prolonged movements which should be held in place for 10 seconds or more. These stretches are great for anyone who is trying to acquire extreme flexibility and range of motion, or on the other hand, for those who are just beginning to learn to stretch. Be careful with static stretching - if you go too hard, you can strain your muscles, which would be counteractive.

2. Warm up prior to a deep stretch. If you’re doing a static stretch and are not already warm from a workout, get warm with some dynamic movements like jumping jacks, high knees, or jog in place. Loosen up the muscles before putting them through a deep stretch to prevent strain or injury.

3. Hit every part. For a full-body stretch, be sure to cover all major muscle groups from head to toe. A typical routine might look something like this:

a. Stand up straight and let the head hang to release tension in the neck and back
b. Continue with slow head rolls and neck movements
c. Work down to shoulders and arms
d. Continue on to torso, abdomen, and back

e. Spend lots of time on legs and hips
f. Finish off with feet and toes

Of course, your routine doesn’t have to follow that order, but it’s an easy way to remember to hit all parts. Within each muscle group there are countless ways to reach these stretches. I would recommend looking up some videos on YouTube or asking a fit friend.

4. Take it slow, be patient, and be careful. Keep in mind that like any other type of workout, it’s important to stretch smart as not to hurt yourself. Don’t rush into things or to expect immediate progress. When in doubt, take things slowly, and remember that flexibility requires time and consistent commitment in order to feel results.

Listen to your body. Stretching should feel good. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself and hurting yourself. A good stretch might make you uncomfortable but should not be painful.

The more you stretch, the better you will feel, so do it every day!

Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: [email protected].

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