What to Do If You Really, Really Hate Stretching
Stretching is the primary way you improve your flexibility, and it can help you recover from and prevent injuries. For these reasons, many people believe that stretching is mandatory and has to be done at the end of every workout.
But what if… you hate stretching? Unfortunately, stretching can be boring and uncomfortable. It’s often the last thing you want to do after a hard workout. So what are you supposed to do if you hate stretching?
If you hate stretching, you can try doing it at the same time as another activity you enjoy, such as watching TV. It can also help to stretch as soon as you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed so it becomes a part of your daily routine. Better yet, try some more active and interesting ways of improving your flexibility, like yoga or barre class.
I asked several experts to weigh in on ways to make stretching more tolerable. Hopefully, their tips can help you overcome your dislike for the activity.
Why Do People Hate Stretching?
Several expert trainers have encountered clients who dislike stretching, and here’s what they’ve observed:
– The Muscles Aren’t Used to It
|Jorden Gold, founder and CSO (Chief Stretch Officer) of Stretch Zone, says, “Many people dislike stretching because muscles are actually not very elastic.”
You may have heard that your muscles become longer if you stretch them, but that’s not true. Instead, you’re increasing your tolerance to how much strain your muscles can handle. Building up that tolerance isn’t fun, and it can be painful at times.
– It Takes Too Long to See Results
“Static stretching solo doesn’t produce quick results,” agrees Shari Zisk, wellness coach at Radiance Wellness. Jorden mentions that “people trying to make the muscles more elastic too often get frustrated by their discomfort and lack of results.” Improving your flexibility takes time. It can be discouraging to practice something so much and not see any results. It’s even worse when you’re uncomfortable!
– It’s Boring
This is something that almost all the experts agree on. Shari Zisk says, “Assuming a position for 30 seconds or longer as is required when doing classic stretching protocol, is simply not fun.” Why would you take the time to stretch when it feels more like a chore than an engaging activity that you can enjoy regularly? You’ll hate it as much as you’d hate any other arduous task.
– You Run Out of Momentum
Emily Stork, founder of Worth the Fight Boxing Studio, says: “One reason people often skip stretching is because it comes at the end of the workout when they already mentally are halfway out the door.” Workouts can be enjoyable, but by the end of them you’re exhausted and you just want to get home. Why would you spend the time to stretch when it’s boring, time-consuming, and you’ve already finished what you consider the most important exercises?
Tips to Find More Stretching Motivation
There are several simple solutions to the problems above. Here’s what the experts recommend:
– If the Muscles Aren’t Used to It
“You can increase your active range of motion and muscle functionality by increasing your “stretch tolerance”, says Jorden Gold. “This can be achieved by continuously moving just outside your comfort zone—to the point of resistance—and then return to a comfortable neutral tension.”
Basically, this boils down to one simple tip: go slowly! Get into position and stretch yourself as far as you can go. Hold it for 30 seconds, then return to the starting position before trying the pose again. After a few tries, you may be able to stretch yourself further. You should feel discomfort, but it shouldn’t be intolerable. You shouldn’t feel like you need to stop. If you feel any pain, you’ve gone too far.
– If It Takes Too Long to See Results
If it takes too long to see results, then two things could be the problem:
- You’re trying to stretch too much or too often, and it’s hurting you
- Your technique is off
Stretching too much is harmful because you’re overworking your muscles. Overworked muscles won’t adapt—they’ll just hurt. Try stretching a little less and stop pushing yourself as hard. Cut out one of your weekly sessions if you must. If the technique is your issue, you may need some help. Consider consulting with an expert about your stretching form. They can correct it so you’ll start seeing results faster.
You could also consider partner stretching, as that will help you see even more results. Shari Zisk says, “When I partner stretch my clients…I can assist in producing an immediate range of motion improvements, sensations of relaxation, and a muscular release that eases tension in their body. “It is very challenging for people to get those results on their own and they ultimately end up discouraged.”
– If It’s Boring
If stretching is boring, find ways to make it interesting. You can try following one of the methods below.
Emily Stork recommends, “Do something fun while stretching.” She suggests having a friend or workout buddy tell you funny stories. You could also put on music or your favorite podcast while you stretch. Consuming media while stretching can numb your mind to what you’re doing. Let your body do its work while your mind is entertained by the media.
Make it Competitive
Emily also suggests turning stretching into a competition with a family member or friend to see who can hold a pose the longest. However, don’t turn it into a competition of who can stretch the farthest or who can hold a challenging pose the longest. That’s a sure way to hurt yourself.
Make it Dynamic
Static stretching isn’t the only way to go. Jorden Gold insists, “By making your stretching dynamic, you’re sure to enjoy this activity more. Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.” That’s more exciting than holding a static stretch. Dynamic stretches such as heel walks, lateral lunges, and chest walks get your blood pumping and give you a quick adrenaline boost.
– If You Run Out of Momentum
“Like with most things stretching should be scheduled. Saying you will do it later usually means it won’t get done because either things will come up or you just won’t feel like it.“ That’s according to TJ Mentus, ACE-certified personal trainer with garagegymreviews.com.
Thankfully, TJ has a solution for this: “The best thing to do is to make it a part of either your morning routine upon waking up or your evening routine getting ready for bed.” He goes on to discuss how you should make it something to look forward to, as it loosens your muscles and stiff joints, which is great in the morning. It also relaxes your body, which is perfect for stretching at night. This is fantastic advice if you like stretching and working out at home. However, it won’t work well at the gym.
For advice on stretching at the gym, Emily Stork says, “We’ve found that one way to get around this is to not put all the stretching at the end but instead weave it into the end of the workout.” She recommends stretching during your rest periods towards the end of your workout. That way you get your stretching done, but it doesn’t feel like you’re adding extra time to your workout session.
Top Alternatives to Traditional Stretching
There are more productive and fun ways to stretch your muscles if you find that static or dynamic stretching isn’t for you. You may find the activities below more comfortable, productive, and fun.
– Practitioner-Assisted Stretching
“At places like Stretch Zone, you go in, lay down on a cushioned stretching table, and let a trained practitioner position, stabilize and isolate muscles. “Basically, they do all the work, and you get all the benefits,” Jorden Gold explains. If you find stretching boring or difficult, this may be a good option for you. You can relax while someone else helps you through the discomfort of holding difficult poses.
– Foam Rolling or the Massage Gun
“Foam rolling can be very uncomfortable but it is basically like massaging your body and you don’t have to hold a difficult position while doing it,” says TJ Mentus. Foam rollers are cylindrical tubes made out of dense foam. You run them over your muscles to help stretch them out and relieve tension. It can feel like you’re hurting yourself on purpose. But with foam rolling, you won’t need to get into difficult positions, and the pain is more short-lived than with stretching. Plus, if you hit a tense spot, foam rollers are more pleasurable than painful.
TJ says that using foam rollers can be more effective than a regular stretching routine sometimes, as can using a massage gun. A massage gun is a more comfortable way to get the tightness out of your muscles. It’s a better choice for someone who dislikes the pain that both stretching and foam rollers can cause. Using foam rollers on your off days between stretching workouts is particularly beneficial, so consider using one even if you enjoy stretching.
There are many different types of yoga, from low-intensity to explosive. Emily Stork recommends yoga for someone who finds slow, static stretching boring. Yoga can help you get in touch with your body, improve your flexibility, and gain strength. It’s also great if you like working out in a supportive environment. Attending a yoga class with an experienced instructor is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated and accountable, too.
If you like the classroom environment but yoga isn’t quite for you, consider barre. Barre isn’t as relaxing as yoga, but it’s still low-intensity. Like stretching, barre contains difficult poses and moves, but the challenge is part of the fun. Barre has movements derived from ballet and other dances. It’s a great way to get in touch with your body, fine-tune your movements, and get an effective workout at the same time.
If barre is too slow but it sounds like something you’d like, actual dance classes are another great way to give your muscles a workout. During a dance class, like Zumba, you’ll stretch to warm up and cool down, but it won’t feel like a true stretching workout. You’ll be too energized and focused on the dance aspect. The dancing itself can work out your muscles and provide an effective form of cardio, too, depending on what kind of dancing you’re interested in. Ballet is best for stretching, but any type of dancing will give you an excellent workout, stretch out your muscles, and improve your fitness.
There are lots of ways to incorporate stretching into your workout, whether you decide to stick with static stretching or switch to another activity that incorporates stretching into it. Your muscles will get a tough challenge, and you’ll see results after just a few sessions if you engage in a stretching activity you like. You’ll slowly build up resistance and be able to hold difficult poses for longer. Once you’re at that stage, you’ll wonder why you hated stretching to begin with!