Sculpting Through Stretching: 2 Week Transformation Pt 4

by Belinda on July 24, 2012

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Before I started my mid-life transformation – there was only one word I hated more than exercise – and that was…… STRETCHING!

As far as I was concerned, stretching was for gymnasts and dancers.  Full Stop.  And I had plenty of evidence to back this thinking up from failed yoga classes led by questionable “gurus” filled with middle-aged women who had excess gas –  to my well meaning high school coach who decided I could “do the splits” if I had the right help – ummmm NO!!

Despite my bad experiences – I am embarrassed to admit this wrong thinking continued during my fitness career (even though I knew I should “know better”).  Hey, no one is perfect. But I just couldn’t find the motivation, energy or commitment to really give it a go and discover the benefits for myself.

If you’ve been following my 2 Week Transformation for Burned Out Bodies, then you’ll know, that during this time I committed to trying 6 new strategies to re-energize and renew – and that meant some honest re-thinking!

1. Got a new bike and rode every day!

2. Exercised outside and at the beach.

3. Experimented with a new training program based on doing shorter, intense, daily workouts (Asymmetrical Variance Training).

4. Started a new stretching program (incredible)!

5. Focused on improving my digestion (new supplements, higher fiber, gluten and dairy free).

6. Made time for deep relaxation (meditation, body exfoliation & massage and quality sleep).

So, today I’m here to tell you about my new stretching program.  And if you are like I was (not only stiff and inflexible in your body but also in your thinking), try to open your mind a little and keep reading.

 

First, let me give you some layman’s science.

 

When a muscle is stretched, it automatically responds with a reflexive contraction known as the “stretch reflex”.  Over time, if the stretching continues regularly, the stretch reflex weakens as the muscle becomes accustomed to the feeling.  It “relaxes” a little and becomes more supple and flexible. This is one of the reasons why holding a stretch is important so the muscle spindles get used to the new length.  Gradually, you can train your stretch receptors to allow greater lengthening of the muscles.

Developing longer more supple muscles doesn’t happen overnight – they need time to grow and to stretch.  But it does happen!  And when it does, you are going to feel like you have been re-born.   It’s very liberating and empowering to be able to touch your toes for the first time in years, or gently move into a stretch and actually ENJOY it.  Not to mention all the health benefits – AND the benefits, yes, tadaaaa, for enhanced training and body sculpting results.

 

Fitness Benefits of Stretching

1. Builds Muscle More Easily: stretching allows your body to perform at its peak, meaning you can heal faster, build lean muscle more easily.

2. Improves Circulation: stretching allows more oxygen you can deliver to your muscles. This means faster recover from training and less risk of injury.

3. Increases Range of Motion and Improved Coordination: building your flexibility and coordination through stretching means better form and technique during exercising.  This means more bang for your buck on the effort and time you are putting into your training.  The time you feel you are “wasting” stretching – is actually returned back 10 fold with improved performance during your sessions.

 

Health Benefits of Stretching

1. Reduces Stress: stretching and related disciplines like yoga helps leave behind our hectic daily schedule and focus on deep relaxation that requires balance and concentration.  It frees your body and your mind – to really be “in the moment”.

2. Helps Manage Chronic Health Conditions: taking time out to stretch, focus on deep breathing so that you are more “centered” can help with conditions such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia, sleep problems, fatigue and mood. Things like yoga for example have been proven to help reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

3. Aids Weight loss:  if you’re overweight or have bad eating habits, the discipline of stretching can be the doorway to making the healthy lifestyle changes necessary to gain control of your eating and drop those extra pounds.  It’s a different approach to fitness and well-being and if you’ve been struggling to get into an exercise program – then this could very well be the secret solution you’ve been looking for.

If you’re ready to get started and feel the benefits for yourself then try my Basic Exercise Ball Stretching.

6 Basic Exercise Ball Stretches

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Note: If you feel that  your hamstrings, calves, and back muscles need gentle stretching to lengthen then you will greatly benefit from gentle stretching.  But don’t push your body beyond its limits. Pay attention to what your body is saying and stop and spend a few seconds waiting for the stretch reflex to get used to the stretch – don’t rush. And just because you have long, supple muscles in one part of your body, don’t assume that all your muscles are the same.  And for every muscle group that seems to very inflexible, the opposing group is often longer and more supple – for example your biceps/triceps, quads/hamstrings, abs/lower back).

I encourage you to open up your thinking and your body to stretching – simply because it will enhance your quality of life.  It will improve your performance both in and out of the gym and help you clear your mind from daily junk so you can focus on what’s really important to you, deep down – for your health and well-being long term.  After all, that’s what our lives are all about……

Bel XO

 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve July 28, 2012 at 6:14 am

Hi Belinda,
Wow, love the article, it was a reminder to me of how beneficial stretching can be!
The way you explain stretching is very easy to understand, and entertaining………now I am off to reinflate my fitball, thanks again!

Reply

Belinda July 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

Hi Steve, thank you :) Stretching doesn’t have to be boring lol!

Bel

Reply

Luis Beare July 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Awesome information! On sports I was always asked to stretch before training but never understood the importance of it (except to prevent injuries). Thanks a lot

Reply

Belinda July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Thanks Luis, stoked you appreciate the info and thanks for letting me know. For me, knowing all this stuff really makes a difference putting the effort into stretching properly!

Bel

Reply

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