I’d rather do my accounts than stretch.
I’d rather watch Sex and the City than stretch (actually that’s a lie, nothing is as bad as sex and the bloody city!)
But stretching is a necessary evil.
Without stretching regularly I wouldn’t be able to move. My hips and low back would become a single fused unit. My hamstrings would be like violin strings and my quads could be used to break bricks on. You see I lift. A lot. I also cycle every day. I am on my feet from the minute I awake and leave for work to when I eventually get home and get the kids to bed.
A few days of this and I can feel things starting to get creaky, old injuries start nagging and mornings become a stiff and painful effort.
So I stretch.
Over the years I’ve done my homework and looked to find more pleasurable ways of doing this. I dropped all stretching from my warm up routines and instead use mobility drills and calisthenics. After training I use a simplified Yoga sequence. These are movement based and therefore interesting to do.
But one thing I could never work out was how to do my static stretching, which with my injury history and especially as I age is getting gradually more and more important. But finally I’ve found that spoonful of sugar.
I call it TV stretching.
It goes like this: For years I always said NEVER stretch from cold, always always always warm up first. That is still good advice, especially if you are looking to develop a good stretch.
But I’m not looking to build a great stretch, I’m looking more at preventing loss of movement. Some guys call it “compensation” rather than stretching, and this is a fitting term. I use stretching to compensate for the tension built up by heavy and/or repetitive lifting.
To do this requires a calm and patient approach. So I save it until the very end of my day, I certainly don’t do it in the charged atmosphere of the gym. Most evenings after the family are in bed and nothing more needs done that day I scroll through the TV listings looking for the least worst option and I get on the floor.
This last hour of my day before retiring for the night is TV Stretching time.
I get into whatever stretch I need, go to the point of mild discomfort and chill out. My attention is on the TV, not the stretch, so it doesn’t seem too bad. As the discomfort eases, I’ll go a touch deeper, never to pain, only to mild discomfort. I may hold each position for many minutes, sometimes as long as 15 minutes, or it maybe just 30 or 40 seconds. It depends on what I’m looking to achieve.
One evening I spent an entire movie on the floor stretching my glutes. The other night I opened up my hip flexors while laughing at Keith Lemon’s antics on Celebrity Juice.
I highly recommend you try it. Standing stretches aren’t ideal, stick to floor based, seated or lying positions.
Tonight I’ll be gently pulling on my hamstrings.