If I ask how often you stretch, how would you answer? Would you answer: A) Not enough. B) Should do more, or C) Not at all, and follow up your answer by telling me how you ‘just don’t have time to stretch’. And for those who just don’t like to stretch, further support your angst towards stretching by citing clinical studies suggesting the ineffectiveness of stretching?
I get it. Stretching is boring and more of a nuisance compared to a good workout. But if you’ve ever observed a cat or a dog wake up from a nap, the first thing they will do is reach their paws forward, arch their back to get a good stretch…usually follow up with a yawn. And parents with newborns will realize, one of the first thing their infant will do, after waking from a nap, is to arch their back and stretch. Why??....because it feels good and it’s an innate behavior.
So why do you avoid stretching? Some may argue that stretching hurts, but the pain may be a result of the SAID Principle. A term developed by the sports science world, SAID Principle (Specific Adaption to Implied Demand), basically states that whatever load/demand you put on your body, your body will adapt to accommodate the stress to better prepare for the same demand the second time around. In other words, if your training for a marathon, you progressively increase your running miles as your body adjusts to the prior set of miles / demand. But I believe the converse of the SAID Principle is true as well… that any lack of demand you don’t put on your body, your body will adjust to the lack of demand. So, if stretching is painful, perhaps it’s due to the lack of demand you’ve put on your body.
Let’s look at it another way. In today’s 9 to 5 office bound working world, most people basically have two positions….lying down and sitting, interspersed with walking in between. If you’re reading this from your desk at work, you got up from lying down from your bed this morning. Then, you sat down for breakfast, sat in your car to drive to work and sat down on your office chair, currently reading this article. Later today, after finishing work, you’ll sit while you drive home and sit at the dinner table to have dinner. You’ll sit on your couch or desk as you decompress from the day and then lie down to sleep 6 plus hours for the evening, only to repeat the process tomorrow.
So, applying the SAID Principle to your daily routine, any new position beyond sitting and lying down might trigger pain and discomfort.
Let’s do a quick experiment. As your reading this, reach your arms toward the ceiling, lean back on your chair and arch your back. Did you exhale and get an ‘ahhh’ response? Did you yawn? Did the stretch feel good? So are you ready? The most common excuse I’ve heard for not stretching is, “I just don’t have the time”. Well, if you have time to check and update your social media or time to watch TV, you have the time to stretch. Yes, you heard me right. You are going to stretch every time you check your Facebook or Instagram or channel surf. Here’s how.
If you’re getting ready to watch TV or go check your social media sites, sit on the floor with your back flush to the wall or your couch. If the pressure is too much on your hamstrings, bend your knees or sit on a pillow to reduce the tension. Allow your body to settle into the stretch. Point your toes and then flex your toes toward the ceiling. Go gently. Remember, the stretches ought to give you an ‘ahhh’ response.
Hamstring stretch: Sit and hold with comfort. If there’s too much discomfort, sit on a pillow or bend your knees.
Adductor and hamstring stretch: Lean forward with comfort
I think you get the idea. You can change and make micro adjustments as you stretch. Be creative and move your body in ways you’ve not done before. In other words, imply a new demand on your body and allow your body to adjust. At first, this new implied demand may be a bit uncomfortable but as your body gets used to the demand, your body adapts. And as an added bonus with stretching, you may find that your bodily aches and pains will disappeared or gain greater range of muscular motion. Looking for the perfect apparel that makes stretching as comfortable as possible? In the above photos, I'm wearing the Durden 2.0 premium activewear t-shirt from Rhone with the uber flexible Bullit shorts.
Find the time to stretch by adding simple stretching routine to your multitasking day. You’ll be surprised how much spare time you truly have in your daily life. Perhaps the ‘ahhh’ feel-good sensation will trigger you to actively add stretching to your daily routine. Besides, stretching is an innate behavior, so why not embrace it?
Sung Pak is the founder of Bodymechanics in New Canaan, CT, specializing massage therapy, strength & conditioning and corrective movement and Biocored. Sung works with clients with injury with post surgery, as well as, children with developmental challenges, through movement. Contact: email@example.com
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