Admit you’re guilty. With your jam-packed schedule, skipping the warm-up, cool-down and stretch portions of a workout is pretty much the norm. Understandably, stretching is not top of the list when you have so many miles and so little time. However, your swim-bike-run skills could fall short if you aren’t giving your body the TLC it deserves.
I know you’re not the type to shrug your shoulders and say “I don’t feel like it.” No, you’re an athlete. You embrace the suck. And then you make it fun. Here are seven ways to make stretching more enjoyable:
1. Do yoga…in the privacy of your home
Intimidated by yoga? Muscles meant for fast and repetitive movement can get so tight that it actually makes stretching strenuous (awkward!). So forget the yogi-led group class and practice your Vinyasa flow on a rest day for much-needed “active recovery.” Following a yoga DVD at home will save time — and save face when your downward dog looks more like a walking worm.
2. Hire help
You know how a grilled cheese tastes better when Mom makes it? Yeah…sometimes, stretching feels better when someone else does it for you. Invest in a weekly or monthly massage (disclaimer: this does not give you permission to omit stretching on your own) to relieve tension, promote flexibility and lower overall stress. If massage therapy isn’t enough, seek alternative muscle treatment, such as acupuncture, mashing and/or Rolfing.
Side note: Due to me not sufficiently stretching my IT band for, I don’t know, eight years, I’ve suffered a minor overuse injury that hurt my running. Investing in regular Rolfing sessions – basically, deep muscle manipulation – has proven extremely helpful in bringing the happy back to my runs.
3. Roll with it
Foam rolling is like the massage therapy I mentioned above without the monthly bill. Even better, you can easily do it every day. Aren’t you excited? I never thought I’d be into foam rolling, either…until I found “the one.” Trigger Point Performance’s grid design takes rolling to Rocky-Mountain heights. It literally hits the trigger points and digs in where you need it. Okay, it’s not as soothing as a massage. But it is a very inexpensive, portable and extremely effective way to relieve your muscles post-workout.
4. Pull someone in
You might be in love with a sport for solo artists, but team collaboration has big benefits. Grab a friend to push or pull on you to help get a deeper stretch. They can also count for you, keeping you honest and ensuring a thorough stretch session.
5. Listen and limber
Listening to music can pump you up before – and during – a workout. The same goes for stretching. Plus, a good beat can help you count how long you hold the stretch. Try holding it through the entire chorus. If stretching is a tad uncomfortable due to those tight, toned muscles of yours, turn up the volume on your favorite song for a much-needed distraction.
Aromatherapy can bring a sense of serenity to your stretching routine. Scents such as lavender and sandalwood calm the mind, which then signals your body to chill out. Once in Zen mode, stretching will feel like a breeze. This is perfect as a pre-bedtime routine.
7. Thank yourself for thinking of you
Stretching is a way of taking care of your body, showing it some love and respect. If you need any more reason to do something good for your overall well-being, dangle a carrot in your face – preferably a carrot made of cake and smothered in cream cheese. Just kidding. Use any kind of healthy treat to motivate you: a new pair of compression socks, a manicure…or perhaps a carrot-cake flavored protein bar. What? That’s healthy-ish.