Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Do you stretch and stretch and still feel as if you’re not getting anywhere? When asked where you feel tight, you answer, “everywhere.”
You’re not alone. This seems to be the case with many people that come and talk to me. Here are a couple things to think about when it comes to how you approach flexibility.
How long do you hold a stretch?
I know when I go to group fitness classes or did organized group exercises, the cool downs consisted of holding a stretch for 10 counts. Well, let me tell you… that’s not enough! It takes 30 seconds to stretch a muscle. And on top of that, the muscle is wrapped in connective tissue, which takes 90-120 seconds to stretch.
Think of it this way. Imagine the muscle is taffy enclosed in a candy wrapper (the connective tissue). Unless the candy wrapper gets bigger, no matter how much the taffy is stretched, it’s still trapped inside the small wrapper. Holding the stretch for the longer 90-120 seconds allows the connective tissue (the wrapper) to stretch, creating a bigger container for the muscle (the taffy) to elongate within.
How often do you stretch?
Going to yoga or stretching once a week is not going to cut it. Think about how much you’re using your muscles EVERY DAY. If you’re sitting at a desk five days a week for 40 hours, stretching one day a week is not going to balance that out.
Are you relaxed?
When you stretch, does it feel like it takes work to hold that position? Tense = holding… and that means contraction. This isn’t going to help the muscle or connective tissue relax and lengthen.
Maybe flexibility isn’t the issue.
If you’re doing all the above and things still haven’t changed, maybe you already are flexible and the issue is that the muscle is overworked. It doesn’t know how to stop working and rest or there is an imbalance that causes it to work overtime. Either way, this can leave them overworked, tired, and tight… and possibly even unable to engage properly.
Much like people who work a lot, and then go home and think about work or do extra work… Even though they’re not at work, they’re still working. Eventually, these people get tired, tight, and burnt out.
So even though Muscle A isn’t actively flexing, if it’s tense and doesn’t get a chance to relax, it can still be working. Eventually, Muscle A gets tired, tight, and doesn’t engage when it’s supposed to. This can lead to other muscles taking up the slack and getting sore because they’re doing their job plus the job of Muscle A. And so forth and so on.
On top of stretching, give yourself some time to rest. Give yourself time to rest while stretching. And on top of all that, give yourself grace. These things take time.
I'm in the process of making a flexibility guide. Share in the comments the two places in your body where you’d like more flexibility.