Help me not hate stretching
January 12, 2020 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I find stretching both boring and painful, but I understand it is important for long-term physical mobility. Please help me hate it less.

It feels like progress is soooooooooooo slow, I don't get the endorphin+adrenaline rush I get from exercise, and also, I'm really super not flexible which ends with me getting easily discouraged/demotivated.

What have you done to make stretching more fun, or just easier to feel motivated to do? I respond very well to gamification if any stretching gamification exists out there...
posted by Cozybee to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

Every time there’s been a stretching question on here, someone has recommended Bob Anderson’s book “Stretching”. I bought it and found it helpful. The most useful thing for me was the idea of the progressive stretch: Don’t just hold a stretch for a certain time. Every five seconds, push it a little further.

You could also do dynamic stretching, which is more like exercise than just standing and holding a stretch.

If you’re willing to spend some money, has some flexibility programs.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:25 AM on January 12, 2020

I audiobook or podcast when I stretch so I don’t get bored. Stretch for an episode or a chapter.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:51 AM on January 12, 2020

Either use an app (I use Yoga Studio, but tbh the original 10-20min routines are better than the newer Famous Name ones - there are some nice easy “ten min beginner flexibility” programmes on there). Ten minutes 2-3x week is all you need, it’s not like cardio.

Or go to a Pilates class. I go after a run, so I already have the endorphin rush, and just use the Pilates to wind down. If it’s a class, it’s harder to skip and harder for your mind to wander too far.

And yeah, it isn’t meant to hurt. It’s more about maintaining range of motion.
posted by tinkletown at 11:13 AM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Two things. As kevinbelt said, in ask.mefi threads on flexibility/stretching/mobility, someone usually links the Bob Anderson book, and someone usually mentions that research shows that (static) stretching has no benefit. I'll point out that the author of that stretching-has-no-benefits review article that 445supermag linked above - Paul Ingraham - also has an equally lengthy, equally well footnoted piece on mobility which talks about how mobility is different than stretching and concludes there are benefits to "dynamic joint mobility drills". So if you read Quite a Stretch (article linked above), I would also recommend you read Mobilize! and draw your own conclusions about what you should be doing.

Second thing, on the "help me hate it less" part of your question. Someone asked a similar but different question in July of 2018, How do I improve my flexibility in 10 min. a day?. I think it addresses exactly your question here, though you are going to see a mix of stretching, yoga, and mobility in the answers. I wrote a a couple of paragraphs in that thread that makes some suggestions that might scratch your gamification itch: Max Shank's 5 minute flow and ROMWOD.
posted by kovacs at 11:57 AM on January 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I too hate stretching, never had that mythical flexibility as a kid, and am getting older and want my body not to stiffen too much. For me to do it, it has to be a class, like pilates or yoga (one hour max class, because I can't even take those 75 minute yoga classes without losing my mind).

I did enjoy those Bikram Yoga classes where the room is super hot. I felt more flexible and the challenge of completing it without passing out was real, and that made it inwardly competitive for me to do it with any regularity. It completely helped me with my aching hip, too.
posted by vivzan at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also hate stretching but have to do it at least twice a day for an injury. I listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or sometimes talk on the phone (with a headset or speakerphone).
posted by radioamy at 1:42 PM on January 12, 2020

Unless specific parts of your body are impaired/painful as a result of lack of flexibility/range of motion, I wouldn’t bother going through a boring static stretching routine. More flexibility is not always more beneficial, and can even become a detriment to you if you keep on trying to increase mobility.

Example: I’ve always been taught through gym classes (in school, spin classes, etc) to do shoulder stretches, particularly the stretch where you pull your arm across your body and hold. I’ve since learned that my shoulders are ridiculously hypermobile and more range of motion is the last thing i need - in fact, it reduces the stability of my arms as they attach to my body and are at greater chance for dislocation.

If general mobility and flexibility make you feel better, i think yoga or tai chi type movement is a great idea, with the caveat that it’s not necessarily a good thing for many folks to attempt to achieve tying themselves up into a pretzel. But that type of exercise tends to work in warm-ups for the muscles and involve a lot of dynamic stretching, which is definitely a lot less boring than separately warming up and holding some boring stretch poses for a couple of minutes at a time.

As others have said, please don’t push into stretches to the point that it is painful! It’s not actually doing you any favors and it may be detrimental to your flexibility efforts, because your body may go into protection mode as a response to pain and tighten up!
posted by sweetpotato at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2020

The only time I have managed to stretch reliably, outside a yoga routine, was when I was swimming for exercise regularly or going to gym classes in the evening and then I would stretch afterwards under a lovely, hot shower. This was as much to have an excuse to spend more time under the lovely hot shower as it was to stretch out my limbs. So depending on what you’re trying to stretch, your domestic set-up, how steady you are on your feet etc finding a similarly pleasant activity to combine with stretching may make it a bit more bearable.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2020

I hated stretching. I was tight as a drum. Stretching took too much time for very little result. Then I found the book 'Active Isolated Stretching' by Jim and Phil Wharton shortly after it was published in 1996. I gained flexibility fast, while spending much less time stretching.

The book is available at all the usual places. A sample of reactions to the book -
One NPR story and a Q&A with the authors.
Runners World introduction, featuring 8 stretches from the book

I listen to my favorite podcasts while stretching.
posted by Homer42 at 11:04 PM on January 12, 2020

I find that even things I don't like are more bearable when I can make decent progress with them. If you're the same, then PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching might be worth exploring. It's recommended just once or maybe twice a week and it's dramatically improved my flexibility.

I went from just being able to touch my knees to touching my toes, without warming up, in 3 months or so. A couple of years in, I no longer hate it when we do the splits in class and can take my hands off the ground and relax into the position! I took lots of gymnastics classes as a kid and could never relax into the splits, so as a 40-something adult, this is phenomenal to me.

If you're lucky enough to have PNF stretching classes nearby, I highly recommend it. There are lots of videos online too, but taking a class will make sure your form is correct.
posted by burntflowers at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2020

Have you tried going to a "gentle" or "restorative" yoga class? Music, props, someone talking you through it, an easy pace, often candles -- all to facilitate an hour of stretching! I personally get my stretching through a faster-paced vinyasa yoga class, but either would work!
posted by amaire at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2020

« Older Have you discovered the best non-plastic...   |   Are my MacBook specs good enough to run Logic Pro? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.