3 Tips to Make Stretching Not Suck

Lets face it, most people know they should stretch but never do. Why? Although having enough time is a factor, the majority of people don’t stretch because… stretching sucks! How did they come to that conclusion? It’s because their experiences have been painful, boring and ineffective. Because stretching sucks, many people come to the inevitable and hilarious conclusion that: “I want to be more flexible but but I’m just too tight to stretch.” 

I am here to say that stretching does not have to suck and that with a little understanding and the application of these 3 tips, anyone can stretch effectively without pain and gain more flexibility, energy and feel good!

Tip 1: The primary cause of why stretching sucks is called The Stretch Reflex

Simply put, the stretch reflex is a program run by the nervous system to protect muscles form being damaged when stretched. For example, when you try to touch your toes and the Stretch Reflex in your hamstrings says “awwwww, hell no!” and you get stopped at your knees.

Now, the Stretch Reflex is a program that exists to protect you—and here’s the rub—it’s programmed wrong. Or more accurately, it’s mis-calibrated. Like a scale that says you’re 200 lbs when you are really 150 lbs, the Stretch Reflex in your body is no longer accurately estimating how far your muscles should actually stretch. It’s been poorly programmed by years of neglect (i.e sitting and not stretching), and therefore thinks that when you try to touch your toes you’ll damage your muscle, and it stops you at your knees.

Fortunately, it’s within the mis-calibration that we have our opportunity for big gains in our flexibility. Since the Stretch Reflex is a software issue of your body (nervous system), not a hardware issue (herniated disc), it can be re-programmed easily and quickly. How? Keep reading.

Tip 2: Relax and Make Friends with your Stretch Reflex

In all the classes I teach, the first thing I say when I lead a stretch is to “find a 6 out of 10.” That means that in whatever stretch you are doing, do not focus on how far you are going. Instead focus on the amount of sensation you are getting in the stretched muscle. Stop when the sensation feels like a good stretch and before pain sets in. This is essential to re-calibrating the Stretch Reflex because once it’s triggered, it’s game over. You can think of it like a sweet fluffy cat, you can scratch its ears and back and it’ll be your best friend for as long as you’re willing to scratch —but try to rub that belly, and you’re going to get scratched pronto.

The pain of stretching happens because everyone tries so hard to get somewhere and the Stretch Reflex says “NO!” Instead, find your 6 out of 10 and relax and pause. After a few moments, you’ll notice something astonishing—the stretch feels good! By respecting the limits of the Stretch Reflex, relaxing and pausing—you make friends with the Stretch Reflex and it says to itself, “This isn’t so bad, maybe we can go a little further.” Of course, the added bonus is now that the stretch feels good, you can actually stay there for 60 seconds without hating it, and dare I say, enjoy it. 

Tip 3: Breathe!

Breathing breathing, blah blah blah, I know—it’s so overused it might as well be outlawed. Unfortunately, like most ancient pieces of wisdom repeated by millions of people for a thousand generations, it’s important. The reason why breathing doesn’t relax you during stretching is that you’ve already engaged in a painful stretch that’s triggered your Stretch Reflex and no amount of Lamaze is going to get that muscle to relax. Luckily for you, practicing the “6 out of 10” rule and making friends with your stretch reflex, you are going to love your breath.

So, you’ve got your 6 out of 10, you’ve relaxed and paused, enjoying the sensation of stretch. Now, start taking slow full deep breaths. Hold your breath for a few seconds at the top of your inhale and then audibly exhale your breath. Repeat. Moving at the speed of the breath, you will notice that your 6 out of 10, will become a 5 out of 10, or a 2 out of 10 and you’ll be able to slowly and gently deepen your stretch. Eventually, you will reach your body’s software/hardware limit for that particular stretch on any particular day, but it will be way further and way more pleasant than any stretch you’ve ever had.

The above techniques work brilliantly for every now and then stretching like when you’ve sat at your desk for too long or you need to warm up for softball. They work even better when applied regularly. I invite and challenge you to apply these techniques to 1 to 3 muscles you’d like to limber up and practice consistently for 7 days. See what happens and post your results below. I hope you enjoy the benefits of effective, pain free stretching that feels good!

Related
The Right Way to Stretch
8 Simple Car, Office or Airplane Stretches
When Life Hurts: Good or Bad Stretch

74 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you

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Jo S.
Jo S3 years ago

Thank you Karden.

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Dennis H.
Dennis H3 years ago

Thanks. :)

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Helga Ganguly
Helga G3 years ago

I always loved stretching.It was never my problem.I was a dancer and we spent a good 15 minutes warming up before classes every day and after the class ended. Our teachers had strict rules and riding crops.They were tough and had weigh-ins.I never had to worry because I walked to work and back to class and walked home at 2am and worked on Saturdays.I'd never get fat-right? Ha ha.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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Tanya W.
Tanya W3 years ago

Really good advice

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Tanya W.
Tanya W3 years ago

Noted thanks

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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Caroline d.
Caroline d3 years ago

Thank you for sharing these tips!
Be all blessed as all your loved ones.
Animals included !

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