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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TPB Fitness Series: Be More Flexible- The 6 Secrets of Proper Stretching

Years ago- like when there were dinosaurs (ha, not really but it feels that way!)- I was a competitive swimmer. It was the best shape I've ever been in and I miss it. I miss how I felt. I miss being toned and feeling like I could swim a few kms without thinking much of it. There is such a good feeling that comes from exercise. Ah, those endorphins- whenever I hear that word I always think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde "Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy...", so true Ms Woods, so true. 

But there's one thing I always remember about practice outside of the time in the pool: the stretching. We would spend about a third of practice stretching and warming up/ warming down. It was as important as the swimming itself. Remaining flexible- and going through stretches properly- are important not just when you're pushing your body, but when you're going through day- to- day life. When you're not taking care of yourself- and this includes simple things like stretching- it's that much easier to hurt yourself, and in the long run, you lose range of motion and flexibility. Not so great. I had my kids young so I could goof around with them, and enjoy being a little crazy as a Mom. To be the Mom that can keep up with her kids and chase them around the yard like a mad woman- I want to still be kicking ass when my kids are my age now. That's a life goal right there and I plan to keep it. 

When I saw that Irina's fitness post for the month focused on flexibility and stretching, I smiled. Sometimes the simplest things make so much difference and I love her tips to help us stay flexible. So come on gals, let's get flexible. ;)

Why is it important to be flexible?

Hands up who knows the answer to this question!
While many people know it’s important to be flexible, not many people understand why that is, and even fewer still know how to work on it.

Flexibility gives our body the range of motion it needs to work well on a daily basis. And, when it comes to exercising, the range of motion needed to perform exercises well. As we get older we lose flexibility and our muscles become more rigid. If we want to maintain our quality of life into old age, we can't ignore stretching.

The majority of people fall into these two categories:

  • those who ignore stretching and
  • those who do it wrong

I want you to be neither of these which is why in this article I will share with you 6 secrets of how to stretch properly so you get the most out of your flexibility training.

Secret #1: Do a warm-up before you stretch

Even if your workout is all stretching you still need to start with a warm up. That's because muscles are like a tough rubber band and not very stretchy. Do a quick 5min warm-up (run on the spot, jumping jacks, etc) followed by your workout. You will find that it's much easier to get into the moves. Your body with thank you

Secret #2: Stretch at the end of your workout not at the start

For the longest time people would start their workouts with stretching but science has shown that there is little benefit to be gained from stretching cold muscles. The optimal time to stretch is  at the end of your workout when your muscles are warm and already loose because you just worked them out!

Secret #3: Hold the stretch

Another mistake I see people making is holding a stretch for less than 5 seconds. In order for a stretch to be effective, you need to hold it for at least 20s. Anything less than that doesn’t really do anything. I like to recommend a 30 seconds hold to my clients. It might be useful to time yourself the first few times. 30 seconds is longer than you think!

As you hang out for the 30s seconds see if you can get further into the move. You're trying to develop flexibility so see if you can push a little further. It should feel slightly uncomfortable but not painful.

Secret #4: Breathe

Breathing is extremely important when it comes to stretching. It's very easy to forget to breathe when you stretch but your muscles still need oxygen and blood. Moreover, your muscles relax on the exhale - so you need to breathe to get that effect! I like to take nice deep breaths when I stretch. It's meant to be relaxing. I think of stretching as my opportunity to relax and let go of my day. I focus on my breathing and let everything else drift away. For 10 min, it's your chance to live in the moment!

Secret #5: Listen to your body

Stretching is meant to maintain and develop flexibility not to hurt you. Yes, there is an element of discomfort, but you shouldn't be gritting your teeth when you stretch and you shouldn't feel any sharp pains. Being slightly uncomfortable is ok but you should be able to breathe through it and feel relaxed. Stretching should feel like a release. If it feels too intense, back off a little bit and if you experience strange sharp pains you should definitely check with a doctor.

Your body will tell you if something isn't right - don't ignore it!

Secret #6: If it's tight, stretch it

I like to recommend to my clients that they stretch the muscles they worked that day, but also any areas of tightness that we discover together. Any area that is particularly tight should always be a focus when you're stretching. For example, I would still want someone with tight hamstrings to stretch them even if we've done upper body that day.

Typical areas of tightness that I see in my mommy clients are:
  • Neck
  • Lower/mid back
  • Hamstrings/hip flexors (from all the sitting down while nursing)
  • Chest/rounded shoulders


Optimal flexibility is pretty tough to achieve because our lives work so hard against that! But I certainly feel it's worthwhile to try to offset the damage as much as we can! Being able to move and have good range of motion is incredibly important so I challenge you to find at least 5min of stretching in your day. Your body will thank you!

And remember to check out the other posts as part of this series, for more fitness education tips for moms:

About Irina

Irina discovered fitness by accident after having her daughter and started Tone Every Zone out of an overwhelming desire to help other busy individuals such as moms juggle a hectic lifestyle while staying active. Irina loves teaching people about fitness and working with them as a team to make long lasting lifestyle changes.

To get in touch with Irina about her personal training services please email her at irina@toneeveryzone.ca, or get in touch through her website. You can also follow Irina on social media for more great fitness education tips:

About Tone Every Zone

Tone Every Zone is a mobile personal training company servicing New Westminster, as well as parts of Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody and Surrey. Tone Every Zone comes to you, saving you the cost of gym memberships, and eliminating the need to adhere to a schedule set by a commercial gym. To learn more, please visit: www.toneeveryzone.ca

Thank you to these partners for collaborating on this post series:

Photographer: Catherine Hilcove Photography Facebook | Instagram

Workout Apparel:
Underables Shown in this post: GROCERIES workout tee & leggings (worn by Irina)

LNBF Shown in this post: Melissa Light Active Hoodie & Suri Leggings (worn by Katherine)