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  • Are You Making This Common Stretching Mistake?

    Don't try this stretch at home

    Don’t try this at home!

    Oh who am I kidding, if you can do this stretch safely, more power to you. I’m just jealous because I WISH I could do this stretch. For most of my life I’ve been what’s known as “flexibly impaired.” I couldn’t touch my toes to save my life. I could touch my thumbs to my forearms and bend my fingers backward until people thought they would surely break, but somehow that didn’t count as flexible. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because no one else I knew could do those things. Maybe it’s because it’s kinda freakish to look at if you don’t grow up being able to do it. Whatever. I’m still flexibly impaired, although much less than I used to be.

    I’m not sure how or why touching your toes got to be the prized indicator for flexibility but it seems pretty entrenched at this point. Rest assured, however, it shouldn’t be. Of course twisting yourself into a pretzel also counts as flexible but it also comes with the stigma of being a freak who might best be suited to a circus career. And becoming a human pretzel generally takes a LOT of work. Work that most people aren’t interested in putting into something that won’t result in a “respectable” job.

    Whatever you do to one side, do to the other

    When I was younger, and even up until I was in my  mid 40’s (OK, until just a few months ago) my stretching routine was pretty consistent with everyone else’s: try to touch your toes, and stretch out any muscle that feels tight. Even after becoming a massage therapist 12 years ago and knowing the benefits of stretching, I only stretched when muscles felt tight. I’d do it for many days in a row and then not do it for months. Sigh. I was a hypocrite for not taking my own advice.

    So I made myself a promise to stretch the way I tell my clients to. That is, to stretch both back AND front, right AND left no matter if it feels tight or not. What ever you do to one side, do to the other. The results so far have been astounding.

    I can touch my toes now, almost every time I stretch my hips, hamstrings, and calves. Buuuut… I also stretch the muscles that bend me forward, in a safe and sensible way of course.  Every day. And even though I only have a restriction when side bending to the left, I do side bending stretches to the left AND to the right.

    It’s all about balance. I’ve only been doing this stretching routine for 2-3 months and I’m amazed at how much my flexibility has improved in every way.

    What’s your stretching routine? Are you making the common mistake of not stretching in a balanced way? How’s it working for you? Let me know in the comments below.

    By the way, if I’m ever able to do the stretch in the picture above you can be sure I’ll let you all know.