We strive to eat healthy and go to the gym in our quest for optimal wellness, yet we often forgo one of the most important elements of a healthy body—recovery. The end-of-workout stretch gets nixed when we’re in a time crunch, but that trend is coming to an end as a slew of stretch-specific studios are popping up across the country.
“People are dedicating more and more time to their wellness and fitness,” says Lisa Schneider of TriBeCa stretch studio LYMBR. “We spend hours and days breaking our body down; weekly or twice weekly sessions will build it back up and keep us moving forward.”
At LYMBR, clients can choose 30- or 60-minute sessions in which a trained therapist will first assess your body, then use a series of dynamic movements of the bod to increase blood flow and range of motion, which helps joints stay aligned and muscles move more effectively. This works to counteract tightness and tension built up in muscles that have been working by physically pulling the muscle back into its ideal or relaxed state.
“I think most of us forget what it feels like to feel good,” says Schneider. “We get so caught up in our day-to-day routines in not only work and activities, but how we carry ourselves through the day; we sit hunched over our computers, we cross our legs, we look down at our phones, we rush to our workout class and dive right in. When we don’t address our postural challenges, we set ourselves up for more work-related injuries and sport-related injuries.”
By continuing to push our bodies sans a good stretch, over time our muscles shorten from poor posture and over-training, we lose flexibility and efficient blood flow (which affects our energy and our moods), and put stress on otherwise healthy muscles and joints.
As little as a session per week could help get you back to feeling your best, no matter if you’re going hard core at the gym, or you are victim of sitting all day long at a desk. “Clients who come regularly feel more productive during the day, have better workouts, sleep better, and just feel better,” she says. “They report feeling more aware of their body and in tune with their posture.”
Here are six benefits of incorporating regular stretching sessions into your routine.
Reduces Likelihood Of Injury
Areas that often have more stress placed upon them when starting a new fitness routine include the low back, knees, and hips. If your starting point is a mostly sedentary lifestyle, sitting and lack of movement for an extended period of time stiffens and shortens the muscles. When a new fitness regimen is initiated, the involved areas will be going through greater ranges of motion they may not be used to, leaving them more prone to injury.
An active method of stretching, like at LYMBR, allows the muscles to be properly warmed up and lengthened before starting an activity. Blood flow and oxygen to the muscles is increased, providing protection to the joints. Muscle imbalances are lessened when stretching as well, allowing the body to have better mobility and alignment to properly grasp the technique of the activity. Active stretching combined with a light warm-up prior to exercise will minimize the risk of getting injured when starting a new routine.
Improves Posture and Alignment
Stretching helps to correct any muscle imbalances in your posture. Our posture takes a beating with how we live a tech-centered life, working long hours, binge watching Netflix, and staring at our phones. Soon after starting a new fitness routine, you may notice a shift in your posture. You may find your posture improving, as you are strengthening muscle groups to help you stand taller and straighter. On the contrary, new fitness routines may also negatively impact posture. If you are beginning a new routine with less than ideal posture, chances are you will have improper form in your workouts and increase the likelihood of pain and soreness. For example, if you start with shoulders that are rounded and elevated, your range of motion and body positioning will be unnatural and compromised. Stretching the upper body will help lower the shoulders and lengthen the spine reducing compensations and allowing you to perform your activity properly. Stretching aims to restore the muscles to their optimal length and position. Similar to posture, new fitness routines will affect the body’s alignment. A properly aligned body will have the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles all in line. Keeping all of these joints linear will place less stress on the spine to help better your posture.
Improves Range of Motion
If you are a regularly active person, you will find that incorporating stretching routines into your daily life will enhance your workouts. The increase in range of motion associated with stretching will allow you to perform your best. For example, stretching the hip flexors and quads will allow more range of motion to help squat deeper and put more power into spinning. Stretching the upper body, like the pecs and shoulders, will allow greater mobility to be put into those boxing workouts. The lengthening and lightness felt throughout the body from implementing these stretch routines will aim to increase performance.
Reduces Soreness and Promotes Recovery
Any post-workout soreness is not problematic: It is your body letting you know it is adapting to the new stresses placed upon it. Excess soreness, however, can leave you feeling tight, fatigued, and unmotivated to keep up with your routine.
Stretching after a workout, whether it is directly after or the following day, will alleviate sore muscles. Even a few minutes of stretching will increase blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to those tender areas. This will not only reduce soreness after a workout; it will properly prepare you for your next one.
Feel Better Inside and Out
There’s no argument that when we feel better, we look better. Walking through the day hunched over with a sore neck or aching low back, we can’t put our best foot forward and are representing our best self. We are less inclined to push ourselves in our workouts because we just don’t feel our best. Stretching can make a noticeable difference to your posture and appearance in one session. When we stand taller, we project more confidence. When our body feels free, we are empowered to do more.
Improves Productivity and Workplace Comfort
Our bodies are designed to move, but the average office worker sits for about 10 hours a day, putting quite a bit of strain on our bodies with poor posture, stiff necks, aching backs, injuries like carpel tunnel and tech neck, and general lethargy and unproductiveness. Stretching can change all of that. Proper stretching will turn on the muscles that have been shut down from sitting, such as your glutes. Stretching increases the oxygen flow throughout your body, leaving you more alert and refreshed. The improvement in blood flow counteracts the negative effects of sitting, restores circulation, and jumpstarts your metabolism. It teaches you and your body what good posture feels like. Stretching will release tension and reduce stiffness and pain.