By Miguel J. Ortiz
We all have tight muscles and, depending on someone’s consistent movement patterns throughout the day, some may have more than others. These areas can flare up during exercise, can be caused by sitting too long or even become aggravated during other stressful scenarios.
If we have serious training goals and less time to stretch, we tend to compromise our recovery which can lead to many other dysfunctions. Now start to add in other stresses that may distract you from your goals and it begins to seem like the goals you’re trying to achieve are even further away. Maybe we don’t always get the fullest stretch we need during yoga, classes, etc. or whatever program routine we have set up for ourselves. So how do we get in more quality stretching and de-stress at the same time?
Using the pain of stretching as a guideline for letting things go can be very helpful. If you are dealing with some stress at work, start with dialing in some focused breathing while you stretch. For example, you have a tight shoulder. Begin by standing up from your desk and perform a light door frame stretch to loosen up your chest. Take a deep breath in while you’re simultaneously starting your stretch, using the pain of the stretch to distract you. When you’re in the fullest range of motion or the furthest you can go into the stretch, the pain of it should distract you and help realign your focus, if not maybe question how hard/focused your stretching actually is. As you release the stretch, breathe away all negative and unwanted energy. Repeat as needed. Your intention needs to be on what you can control so that as you go through the stretch not only are you loosening up your muscles but stress is also floating away.
Next, it’s important to know when to fight through the pain as we don’t want to add to our stress. The point is to let it all go. Stretching needs to be tolerable so that you can push yourself at appropriate times and actually feel the release happening in the body. This means understanding your pain threshold and keeping your intentions on relaxing. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. How can I relax when the stretching itself is tough? Simple, you’re in control. You don’t have to do the deepest and craziest stretches; I personally would shoot for a 7 out of 10 pain thresholds. This will make it tolerable and help keep your focus.
And for everyone with a desk, office or both, a lacrosse ball just became your best friend. If you’re dealing with a little stress, take off your shoe, pull out your new lacrosse ball and place it underneath your foot while sitting down. Your feet are the first point of contact with the ground, so why not take care of them? Roll the lacrosse ball around the bottom of your foot finding tight little knots and areas that give your foot a nice release and, when finished, continue about your day. And for all my people doing classes, don’t be afraid to enjoy sitting in a stretch a little longer. The instructor won’t mind and you won’t have to worry about keeping up with the class.
This intention toward stretching will help take your mind off of whatever stresses you are dealing with and allow you to put that energy where it belongs, with you.
Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.