But it feels so good!
March 5, 2011 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it acceptable to stretch in public?

Now that the weather's getting nicer, I expect to be spending more time outdoors running, biking, etc. One of the reasons I enjoy these activities is because it feels so good to stretch out afterwards. That said, I don't want to make people uncomfortable or look like I'm showing off (I'm fairly flexible and usually hear a comment about my flexibility when I am stretching). Is it acceptable to stretch in public? Are there some stretches that should be avoided in public areas? How can I stretch discreetly while still feeling nicely stretched? Do I even need to be worried about this?
posted by mixed greens to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do not worry about this. If you're sweaty and dressed for exercise (and seriously, even if you're not), anyone who has a problem with your stretching should consider joining you to burn off some of that anxiety.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

You shouldn't be worried about it. Everywhere I've lived it is perfectly acceptable for people to stretch out after runs/biking/etc.
posted by birdherder at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2011

Yeah, stretch in public. It might be a bit much if you're like busting out splits on the sidewalk, but I don't see why it would be unacceptable otherwise.
posted by elpea at 6:22 PM on March 5, 2011

Well, I wouldn't bend over to touch your toes in an area with a lot of potential oglers. But in general, stretch away, and feel the envious stares of the less-flexible.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:26 PM on March 5, 2011

If you're stretching to a point where strangers are "usually" commenting on your flexibility, I feel like maybe you are being a little theatrical about it or something. I've never been offended by someone stretching in public, but I've also never felt compelled to register any sort of remark on the topic, and the fact that passersby apparently think your stretching is worthy of discussion kind of sets off a "maybe this person is stretching in a way that is making people uncomfortable" alarm for me.

If there's a stretch that seems to attract more than its share of onlookers, you might want to retire that one. However, maybe you just live in a really friendly place where everyone has an opinion to share?
posted by troublesome at 6:31 PM on March 5, 2011 [12 favorites]

My husband does this stretch where he crouches down, touches his toes then straightens his knees, crouches, straightens, etc, so that basically his bum bounces up and down. That one he prefers to do facing outwards from a fence or bush rather than waving his arse at the passing traffic. So I don't think there are stretches you can't do, but maybe think about what direction you're doing them in (if that makes sense). Also make sure you're out of the way, so don't stop in the middle of the pavement where people are trying to walk or something.

Otherwise you're good.
posted by shelleycat at 6:31 PM on March 5, 2011

I think I wouldn't even notice someone stretching in public, especially if they are wearing sport clothes. Nothing strange there.
posted by kag at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2011

Stretch away. If there's a cultural taboo against stretching in public, it's a dumb cultural taboo.
posted by smorange at 6:43 PM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's publicly acceptable to stretch in public- as a twentysomething female you will be checked out by (most?) guys in line of sight, most of whom are probably nice people, but you might have some creepers out there too. I avoid things like standing splits, bridge back bend things, and other dance/yoga non running type stretches outside b/c that would attract attention that I'm not personally looking for. I doubt that you're making anyone uncomfortable.

I think discreet = runner type stretches, non discreet = gymnastics/dance/yoga stretches (yes there's some overlap)
posted by tangaroo at 6:54 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't worry about it. I get up early in the morning to walk my dog. We both stretch to welcome the wonderful outside and don't give a fig what anyone thinks about it. I can't imagine being offended by seeing anyone stretch. Maybe at a formal dinner party, but even then I can't think of a reason why not. Stretching feels good and I understand it is healthy.
posted by trip and a half at 7:14 PM on March 5, 2011

Depends where you live
posted by tiburon at 7:40 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to share a tiny cubicle at a 9-to-5 job with a woman who would do deep lunges right next to my chair during conference calls while wearing business casual. I think as long as you're in workout clothes and outdoors, you're ok!
posted by mochapickle at 7:47 PM on March 5, 2011

Outdoor public: yes, as long as you aren't blocking anyone.
Indoor public: probably not.
posted by gjc at 7:48 PM on March 5, 2011

You go on and stretch it out with your bad self. The only people who comment to make you feel bad are the ones who haven't touched their toes in years.

Stretch it out...random internet guy or girl.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:59 PM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Think of yourself as an inspiration to others. Stretch away!
posted by SPrintF at 9:07 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the responses so far! I'm happy to find that so many people are pro-stretching.

I think my problem is that because my of flexibility, even runner-type stretches end up looking a bit "theatrical." For example, to get a hamstring stretch from a forward fold, I have to place my hand flat on the ground and bend my elbows so my head is almost between my knees. The comments I was referring to in my initial post were from friends or people at the gym (where I don't think it's as odd to get comments like that). I'm already a bit self-conscious, so I try to do my yoga stretches (full splits, king pigeon, wheel, etc) at home or at the gym. Even though they would be amazing post-run stretches, I think those would crossover into the theatrical category...
posted by mixed greens at 9:25 PM on March 5, 2011

That forward fold is a good example of the kind of stretch where you probably want a solid surface at your back, or at the very least don't point your bum straight towards cars driving past (it feels vulnerable if nothing else). But if you have to get your front half right down on the ground to do that stretch then go for it, I don't see any reason to avoid doing it in public after a run or whatever. I doubt anyone would even notice and if they comment, then feel free to make snarky comments about them minding their own business because that's pretty rude.

It might help you feel less self conscious if you can find a slightly out of the way place to use, like a corner playground, school playing field (after hours of course), corner of a parking lot, that sort of thing. We have a bunch of big noticeboards on a corner near our house which sit on a bit of grass, and I like to stretch behind them where I can't be seen. Even just standing behind a power pole or going around a corner to a smaller street helps, although I wouldn't go as far as a dark back alley way.

As long as you're not in anyone's way and not, like, flailing your arms and legs around the place, then doing some quiet stretches after your run is a totally common and normal thing to be doing even if you can extend like crazy.
posted by shelleycat at 9:38 PM on March 5, 2011

I'd say yes as long as your shirt doesn't come up when you stretch and show your belly, or something like that.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:22 PM on March 5, 2011

I was on the train one afternoon and there was a woman (I think) doing stretches for the entire 20 minute ride. Like, taking up the whole row, shoes on the seats, feet in the aisle, hanging from the goddamn overhead bar, stretching. I imagine if I had been forced to say something, "wow you're really flexible" would have been it. Oh and she was not in exercise clothing. It was more like an East Berlin from the 80s kind of outfit.

It was like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry falls asleep on the train to Coney Island and wakes up to a naked guy sitting across from him. People progressively moved away from her over the course of the 20 minutes until I was the only one left. Because I'll be damned if some weird German tourist is gonna make me get up and walk to the other end of the car.

In conclusion, please don't do that. Because if we're honest, I may have stuck to my guns, but no one really won that day.
posted by danny the boy at 2:26 AM on March 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Please inspire us. Please help us normalize a sitting-down world into a stretching, running, standing-up world.

You know the true purpose - which isn't theatrics. It's taking care of the temple of your soul. It's a matter of life or death!

I don't know if you do, but I have worried about whether people see me as theatric, say, if I'm doing whatever in public. I found it very helpful to think a little about it, and determine that I'm doing it for myself. Of course! Having resolved it internally, then I do the thing, meditating or focusing on that I'm doing it for myself. This sort of penetrates the bubble of social anxiety and grounds oneself in the mission. Know it's for you, and do it. It's your world, your life, your body, and you're doing a public service by inspiring us and showing us the way.
posted by krilli at 2:39 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Absolutely, you have the right to stretch where ever.

I think a sneaky fix to prevent people making comments if you staged it as a private 'yoga' session -- take a blanket/towel along and do it 10-15 feet away from other people, with closed eyes. If you promote the image of "I'm having a private spiritual experience", all but the most outgoing people will feel inhibited abut approaching you/commenting.
posted by MeiraV at 8:58 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sure, go right ahead! Stretching people remind me I need to work out more.

Just don't block the damn sidewalk.
posted by HFSH at 2:45 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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