You should stretch beyond your natural range of motion
In the world of "no pain, no gain," with ghost voices of past coaches whispering, "Push yourself, reach a little farther," in your ear, it’s not surprising that you tend to stretch past your breaking point when reaching for your toes.
It’s time to stop.
Andrea Gilats, a yoga instructor and author of Restoring Flexibility: A Gentle Yoga-Based Practice to Increase Mobility at Any Age, says, "A safe, beneficial stretch invites you to hold near or at the limit of your current range of motion for a particular joint." As you calmly breathe, gradually deepen your stretch by relaxing into it as you exhale.
The reality is, it’s completely possible to overstretch, which can lead to muscle strains and other injuries. By stretching within your range of motion, you protect your muscles, tendons and ligaments while gradually increasing your flexibility.
Foam rolling can replace stretching
I know I’ve just told you (several times) to pick up a foam roller to help relieve tightness and alleviate muscle soreness, but I hate to break it to you, this is not going to be a replacement for stretching, which seems to be a rising trend.
Stretching does just what it says it’ll do: It stretches your muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. It helps maintain and improve flexibility, which is a foundational component of fitness.
Foam rolling is basically self massage. It’s fabulous. I love my foam roller more than I care to admit, but its function is different from stretching. You need to stretch for flexibility benefits and foam roll to work out the kinks. They’re different, and you’ll benefit differently from them both.
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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and fitness writer who is, at long last, starting to prioritize stretching through a thrice-weekly post-workout yoga routine. She feels a million times better than she used to. Do you prioritize stretching? Share on Twitter @girlsgonesporty.