Stretching 101: Tips for doing it safely

Fit For The Road Logo HeadersRegular stretching is an essential part of any fitness routine. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), regular stretching can improve flexibility and may help limit discomfort from being in a confined space, like a truck cab, for a long period of time.

WHEN TO STRETCH: If you’re only stretching and not doing a more vigorous workout, then start with a few minutes of easy walking to get your muscles warmed up before you stretch. In general, stretch when your muscles are already warm. This will let your muscles stretch farther without being hindered by pain or tightness. If you’re doing endurance or strength training exercises, do your stretching after your workout, not before.

Stretching 101HOW LONG TO STRETCH: Do each exercise 3-5 times during each session, moving slowly and smoothly into the proper stretching position. To start, hold each stretch for about 10 seconds. Over time this will become easier until you can hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

STRETCHING SAFELY: Start by relaxing and breathing normally while stretching. As you stretch, push your breath out slowly through your mouth. Slowly count to or time yourself for 10-30 seconds, recommends the AHA. Breathe normally as you stretch. Other AHA recommendations for safe stretching include:

  • Make sure your stretches are always smooth and slow, not jerky or bouncy, to prevent muscle tightening and injuries.
  • Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Breathe normally while stretching.
  • As your flexibility improves, reach farther into each exercise. If you feel sharp or stabbing pain then you’ve stretched too far and should stop. A mild pulling feeling is normal during stretching.
  • Never lock your joints; Always keep them slightly bent. Locking your joints can cause injury.

Here are some stretching exercises recommended by the heart association.