A cat stretch is a process of unapologetic luxury. Stretch out your own muscles and bounce back from chronic pain and feel the release of a good, long stretch!
We are all busy people. I have yet to speak to someone who says they aren’t pressed for time in one way or another, or who didn’t wish they had more time in their lives. We’re all constrained to the same 1440 minutes per day, and the same 168 hours per week. So it’s no surprise that for those of us who do make it to the gym regularly, what we do there and how long it takes is pretty important. Generally, we’ll have an idea of what activities we’re doing, be it cardio training, strength training, or some kind of fitness class. Some of us even have plans and routines we’ve either carefully laid out ourselves or had help with from a trainer. But in all this hustle and all this planning, does stretching take precedent, or a back seat?
Based on my observations from spending years in gyms around the US, I can say unfortunately stretching takes the back seat. For the vast majority who are doing well in getting to the gym and putting in the work, stretching is either an afterthought (bad) or not a thought at all (worse). In fact, this is something I have to repeatedly and continually remind my clients regarding! From day one when starting out a new client, one of my mantras is to stretch 7 times per day. This is often met with raised eyebrows, but it’s my hope that by setting the bar extremely high, I might get someone to stretch once or twice on most days instead of not at all. Likewise, a portion of every single session is dedicated to mobility and flexibility work.
I make these things a priority because I have seen firsthand what benefits stretching can offer. There are of course the small, day-to-day benefits that maintaining proper mobility and flexibility offers such as feeling less stiff and achy and being able to bend down and get things more easily, but I’m talking about more. I’ve seen clients relieve severe chronic back pain on multiple occasions simply by incorporating a few basic, easy stretches into their daily routine. One client reported this to me with real tears of gratitude because his pain had been severe for years! I’ve seen clients come back from injuries rapidly and effectively by maintaining their flexibility throughout. I’ve even had one former client tell me that he wouldn’t be walking without stretching. He’d had a serious illness and subsequent surgery. If he did not already have a daily routine of stretching in place from our days training together, he would not be able to walk.
The long story short is: stretching is important. I’m aware there are numerous studies and camps debating when you should stretch, how you should stretch, or even if you should stretch, but if you take away nothing else from this, please make sure you’re doing some sort of stretching regularly! There are plenty of kinds of stretching and ways to incorporate it into your fitness schedule out there, so if you like Yoga, do yoga! If you enjoy foam rolling and mobility drills, knock yourself out! Just be sure to error on the side of light and brief stretches before exercise when your muscles are cold and stiff, and go for the deep, long stretches after training when everything is good and warm, and you’re set. I know you’re busy, and I know your 168 hours of the week are scheduled pretty tight, but regular stretching is definitely worth the time you take and the time you make!