How long to hold a stretch? 29 October 2014
This question is answered in the Handy Tips section of my Get Bendy eGuide and also on the poster but I still get a few questions so I thought I'd write a bit more on the topic. To be honest this is something I have never worried about, because even when our swimming coach told us to hold a stretch for 30 seconds I didn't listen. It was more like 1-2-3-4-29-30 OKAY DONE!
Another reason I don't like counting is because when I stretch I want chill time. I don't want to be counting sheep from Mississippi… The reason I'm anti-counting could also be another swimming related thang. I hated seeing 400m Free on the board at training and thinking urrghhhh how does one exactly count to 16... Especially in a 25m pool when all you can think of is one annoying line from a chorus of a song you really don't know. 'If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends…' Shut up Spice Girls, that's how fights start. I think swimming up and down that black line has damaged me.
Some people need a bit more structure though, and that's cool. I guess you have two options. You can count seconds or breaths. The reason I don't specify 30 seconds per stretch in Get Bendy is because the duration you hold each stretch can vary depending on the body part and also the difficulty. All the stretches in Get Bendy are about getting back to basics however I wouldn't hold a neck stretch as long as a hamstring stretch. If you want me to tell you how many breaths to count maybe try 5-10? Whatever feels good.
The length of time you hold a stretch can also depend where you stand on the Tin Man - Gumby spectrum. When I started out and even on days where I'm feeling sore/tight I won't necessarily feel like laying in a wide legged forward fold like a dead sloth for five minutes. That brings me to Yin Yoga.. If you google 'how long do I hold a stretch', the general consensus is 30 secs. I've never done a Yin Yoga class but the postures are generally held for 3-5mins (so I hear/ read). So it's really up to you. I looove holding leg stretches for as long as possible some days because I feel like I start to really make some sweet progress. Listen to yo' bodaaay!
I had a massage yesterday and I said 'ummm may I please have a relaxing remedial massage..?' He just looked at me like I was on crack. What I really meant was 'can you please get rid of all my pains, but don't talk to me, because I have my period and life sucks'. I lost where I was going with this… (just sat here bouncing on my gym ball for 2 mins). Annnd I'm back! The massage therapist was digging his elbow into the top of my glute which was rock hard and uber painful. His advice was 'breathe in for 2, swirl the fresh oxygen around the sore muscle for 2, exhale for 2'. It actually worked wonders. So I thought I better pass that one on. Try it! Also, the exhale is a good time to lean a little further into a stretch.
Injuries. Everyone has different niggles and pains. Take your time and only do stretches/ poses that your body agrees with. Move into stretches and come out of them slooowly. If you've never done the splits in your life and you decide on Wednesday you're going to do a jump split.. before doing so, book in at the physio for the Thursday to start rehab on your destroyed hammie. No sympathy there. Because I did that to myself, sort of, and I learnt my lesson. Don't be dumb.
Final question I shall answer (but not answer) is 'how long will it take me to get flexible?' - I seriously have no idea. What I have written in the Get Bendy guide is 'an Olympian does not train once a week and expect to be the best at what they do.' Stretching daily is very beneficial but sometimes, life happens and before you know it you haven't rolled out your mat since 2006. Das ok. Do it as much or as little as you like. The more you do it, the quicker your flexibility can improve. Just take it easy.
Oh wait one more. What time of the day? Again, depends. Sun salutations are an awesome way to get the bod moving in the morning, or you can check out some quick morning and bed time stretches here. I really love having a big stretch after a workout at the gym when my muscles feel nice and warm. I think it's good to do a bit of aerobic activity and joint rotation before getting stuck into things (also mentioned in Get Bendy). See how you're feeling.
Let me know if I've missed anything. Though I'll probably just tell you to make a decision based on how you're feeling because alas I am not your physio or exercise physiologist, sowwy. I would definitely seek some profesh help if you're suffering from an injury. They have jobs for a reason, make use of them.. And then do your exercises. ;) Seeing a physio has helped with my dodgy hamstring and shoulder.
If you're after a stretching guide to follow Get Bendy is available here :)