Hate Stretching? Stop “Shoulding” On Yourself and Start One of These Programs Today

“I should stretch more,” says at least one of my clients every week. While that statement may or may not be accurate, those choice words reveal a level of personal resistance that certainly doesn’t help the cause. 

Perhaps you “should” stretch. Stretching helps you move better in life and in your workouts. And a regular stretching routine can reduce that “old man” feeling when you get out of bed (by a lot). But suppose you’re not naturally flexible, or you have nagging aches and pains. In that case, stiff muscles and joints are likely to protest your random stretching efforts.  

In the same way that you might only eat veggies when trying to cut weight, stretching just to quiet down flare-ups of old injuries doesn’t lead to results. If stretching is going to help, a little every day is the best way to make progress. 

Here are three common barriers to getting a stretch habit going and suggested (and free!) programs to overcome objections:

1. No time? How about 1 minute.

Time to run and lift, but no time to stretch? If you’re tempted to skip mobility work altogether, two exercises may be enough to get the job done. The Stoney stretches your chest, biceps, hip flexors, and inner thighs, while the Windmill loosens your spine and reveals your tight spots. All you need is a doorway and a dowel rod to get started.

“The Two Stretches You Need to Do Before a Workout” from coach Dan John

2. Inflexible? Move instead of stretch.

For many people, the appealing part of working out is how movement makes their bodies feel. For them, the stillness of stretching has little appeal. But stretching doesn’t have to be stationary. 

If holding a position for an extended period feels more harmful than helpful, try a dynamic stretch, such as the Walking Spiderman. Three rounds of the exercise on both sides of the body takes less than a minute and hits all the major stretch zones.

“High Knee Walk to Spiderman” from coach Eric Cressey

3. Can’t seem to get started? Use a guided routine.

The free Nike Training Club app has hundreds of well-designed guided workouts for both novice and experienced trainees. The yoga section includes over 60 guided sessions ranging from 6-60 minutes in length. 

Because these programs are geared as complementary training for athletes, it makes them a low-stakes choice for those who are curious about yoga; they’re worth a look if you are unsure of the woo-factor or don’t want to commit to in-person classes.

Yoga sessions on the Nike Training mobile app

Here’s how to keep moving

Start with a mindset shift. Your stretching habit (or really, any health habit) isn’t on an “on” or “off” switch. It’s on a dial. When you have time and energy, you can turn up the dial on workouts, nutrition, or stretching. 

When it’s crunch time, don’t switch off completely. Just turn down the dial a little. Instead, focus on one problem area with a stretch that feels good, and make it part of your morning routine. For example, stretch your arms overhead in the doorframe of your bathroom. Or, stretch your calf at the countertop while you wait for your coffee to brew. 

If you want to improve your mobility, stop “shoulding” on yourself and try something new. It’s never too late to begin again. 

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