When you start typing “is stretching” in the search box of your favorite web browser you will get many suggestions. Is it bad for you? Is it good for you? Should you do it before exercise? Oh, so many ideas and answers online on it. I won’t try to change your mind too much on however you may fall. But I have some things for you to think about…
What is working for you? Or to get more to the point, do you have areas of constant pain or tightness? If so, what are you/have you doing? If grinding it out on a foam roller for well over an hour is not helping much, why keep on doing it? You stretch and strain and push yourself in some position and it is not working. Perhaps as much as someone else felt the difference doing that way of releasing the tight areas does not mean it will be the gamechanger for you.
Do you love stretching? Every day is a yoga day? I have crossed with people that in my opinion stretch too much and I suggest that they do some kind of strength training with external weight to ensure stability. You want that strength to be able to “own” how you move your body during the day.
Do you want to be flexible or improve your mobility? Do you want to be able to do the splits or put your luggage away on the airplane? For the more functional one that I am more focused on, that means more than being limber.
Or you are one of those with athletic backgrounds and find value in stretching to prepare for an event? You understand that dynamic warmups are helpful to prepare for what your sport dictates.
What are your movement habits? I am sure one of the first things that come to mind is what your posture is when driving or sitting. Our movement & posture habits can be the guidepost to why we are tight or have an area that causes us pain. These habits also include if/when we exercise how our posture is when we perform a squat or other movements. Too often an exercise is blamed for hurting someone. A squat is not bad for your knees. A deadlift is not bad for your back. A deadlift is done with the most optimal posture, and proper breathing with a weight they can handle has a very good chance of not hurting someone. A squat does not have to be painful on the knees, many can reduce such pain by practicing a better way to move their bodies.
How well are you breathing? Think of your torso as a cylinder. We should inflate the entire cylinder when we inhale…not just the belly. More optimal breathing techniques can not only help you in the gym but also get more out of your stretch or warming up.
Have you tried something different…or had someone give you tips on your form? Some find that movement that is more about mobilizing the joints is better for them than sitting and holding a stretch. I lean towards that from my own experiences training for events and what works and what has not. I have also introduced people to different ways of opening things up (than the traditional hold and stretch) and they have found it better and they can see some improvements. Think about form as the horse before the cart. You see the people at the gym or in videos that did the opposite and it is easy to see that it does not look right. Perhaps you have learned how to do something one way and don’t know that over time such form can lead to the issues you are having now. Often when we all make such mistakes our bodies will let us know…but we have to listen :).
My advice for active agers is to try to do some form of movement that helps your mobility so things like tight hips are looser. If what you are doing is not working, try some other kind of movement. Just remember that often various forms of exercise with the most optimal form for you coupled with better breathing can help loosen things up more than you may expect. Exercise can be corrective! I hesitate to say that there is one kind of movement that can help you be loose with a better range of movement. Do what works for you. Just don’t get caught in the cycle that there is nothing you can do. It can always help to have someone help get you back to a better “start point” (like a massage). The group led classes such as Tai Chi or Yoga are just the tip of the iceberg.
As always…It can also help to reach out and get the help of a qualified professional like myself that can help you find what works for YOU.