• I hate stretching! I have to admit it, even at the risk of my kids seeing this article. This is definitely one of those “do as I say and not as I do” behaviors. I often preach and can attest to the importance of stretching to them but when it comes down to it and I get on the court to play tennis, basketball or any other sport, I just want to start playing and have fun. Who wants to sit around and stretch? How boring!

    Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I feel my bones cracking and my muscles aching in places I never even knew existed. I feel like my body is just falling apart and my muscle recovery time is so much slower than it used to be. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about because if you’re over thirty, you must be feeling it too! Gone are the days when I can run out onto the court and just start playing a sport without warming up. Don’t worry; I still try to get away with it all the time. But my body quickly sends me a gentle reminder in the form of a pulled muscle, soreness in my joints or some other injury that sidelines my game. I feel stupid every time it happens and I’m out for a week or so, just to find myself doing it all over again when I get back into the game. I kick myself every time but it’s like a nightmare that just keeps repeating itself.

    Intellectually, I know that stretching is important on many levels and ideally I should be doing it every day. Some of the benefits include; flexibility, good circulation, good posture, increased energy, and improved coordination and balance. Stretching has even been proven to prevent injuries, reduce back pain, reduce stress, and even burn calories. So, you think it would be a “no brainer.” Why, then, do I and so many others choose to skip this crucial step before and after a workout? Probably because we’d rather be doing something else with our time. Let’s face it! There is no fun or glamor to stretching.

    So, all that changed about a month ago and my body is definitely reaping the benefits. My family and I sat down for movie night and my eleven year-old daughter, who’s on a gymnastics team, had just finished a training session. She usually stretches for fifteen minutes with her class prior to their training and then does fifteen minutes as a cool-down on her own. So, there she was sitting on the floor in front of our television doing her little stretches. She heard me complain that my back was hurting from a bike ride that I took earlier in the day. So, in her little authoritative voice, she instructed me to lie down on the floor and do some stretches with her (while we continued to watch the movie, of course). Soon the whole family was on the floor leaning forward with their feet stretched out in front of them. I have to say that it was a mixture of pain and relief all at the same time. She had us hold different poses for 15-30 seconds at a time, even in the sitting position on the couch. She propped a little step stool under my feet and led us through a series of stretches that we could do practically anywhere. By the time the movie had ended my back pain was gone and my body felt much more relaxed. She explained that she stretches almost everywhere, while sitting in class, reading, and especially while watching TV.

    This got me thinking that I could be doing the same in several different places. Even now, while I’m sitting down and writing this article, I’m slightly leaning forward with my legs propped up on a box under my desk. It seems to work and is not a distraction, so I figure: why not? Maybe next time you’re sitting around doing some activity in which you have a little leg room, why not remind yourself or even someone next to you that you could be using that time to stretch? Otherwise, they might think you’re a little weird if they suddenly see you cringing or making funny faces. It’s doesn’t take any extra time out of your day and your body will love you for it!