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8 Simple Ways to Fit Stretching Into Your Day

You know you should do it. So here’s how to actually do it.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Illustration of woman stretching on yoga mat

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You went for that run, did the Zoom class, worked all day at your desk without distractions, or stood all day on your feet your entire shift—you’re awesome! Gold star. But did you stretch?

I know, I know. You will later. I will later. We all will…later. I would love to tell you, because I’m a fitness and yoga instructor who knows the benefits and importance of stretching and who is quite familiar with a plethora of stretches and poses, that I never skip it and I prioritize it over all of the other things happening in my life. But, well, these hips don’t lie, and they will tell you I most certainly have neglected them many times over. In fact, I neglected them again yesterday. And let me tell you, my hips, legs, calves, and quads all let me know about it today while I was running.

Which brings me to the question: Even when we know we should be stretching, even when we know we feel better when we do it, why is it so easy to skip it?

I think there are a bunch of reasons to explain that. For one, there is a lot happening in the world right now. We have been through so much collectively with COVID-19, let alone with whatever else you may have going on personally. So, yeah, maybe stretching isn’t on the top of your to-do list. And if you’re anything like me, maybe being on the top of your to-do list doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to get done anyway, so there’s that too! Give yourself some grace.

Like with many things during these “unprecedented times,” our priorities, schedules, and days seem to shift all the time. Getting into a routine can be daunting, finding “free time” might be near impossible, and “later” is an elusive, perhaps deceptive, desire disguised as a promise. Our health might be more top-of-mind at the moment, but taking care of our mental health might take rightful precedence over less eminently vital behaviors like stretching.

And, if there’s anything I’ve learned in my years of studying public health, it’s that human behavior is tricky. There is so much that goes into our decisions of whether or not to engage in a behavior, even one that we would like to do. As much as we would like to think that just knowing the benefits, or the “why” we should do something, is enough, it isn’t necessarily. We are all influenced by a variety of factors that help determine how likely it is that we make a choice to do something or that create barriers that make it harder for us to make that choice.

You could be a fitness/yoga professional with the knowledge, resources, time, job flexibility, and all of the things and still choose to forgo stretching. Hi, it me.

So I know that if I can forget to stretch, or just choose to do other things instead (looking at you, Netflix), then maybe you might too?

Here are a few stretching tips to set ourselves up for better success in making it a bigger priority. I actually use these myself. But I have to say, sometimes some of these tips work better than others. When that’s the case and a specific tactic just isn’t working anymore, I’ve discovered that changing it up and trying others often reboots the habit.

1. Remind yourself about all the very important reasons to stretch.

Like I mentioned above, there are tons of benefits of stretching. Improving flexibility, prepping your body for a workout or to cool down after one, helping address muscle imbalances, reducing muscle stiffness and achiness, and just helping your body and mind relax are just a handful of them. I know when I do make the time to stretch, my training sessions feel much smoother, my body feels less lethargic, and I actually feel like I want to be more active.

Sure, there might be debate within the fitness world about some of the aspects of stretching—such as whether to stretch before or after a workout and when to use dynamic or passive or static stretching—but we pretty much all agree that keeping our bodies mobile and flexible is a good thing. Reminding ourselves of this often might help.

2. Put your stretching stuff in a high-traffic spot.

Keep a mat, yoga strap, block, foam roller, or something that will make you think about stretching somewhere where you will pass by it on a daily basis. This acts as a reminder that maybe you could do or stretch or two when you see it.

Does this stretching tip always work? No, but it does sometimes. Keeping my yoga mat in my living room worked for me in the early quarantine days, but I must confess that my mat has been giving me the side eye lately since it’s not getting as much as love as it used to. Hey, we all have room for improvement—I could probably put it in a different spot as a new reminder (and combine it with a couple more of these tactics).

3. Create small habits.

I mean really small. Pick one or two stretches that you know make you feel better and do only those. Do this maybe once a day. Maybe a few times a day. The key here is to make it as easy as possible for you to fit it in so that it never seems daunting. And then maybe add another one once this becomes a habit, or when you start to crave how much better your body feels after you do that stretch.

4. Stack habits.

Have a podcast or three that you listen to weekly? Maybe try doing some mobility moves or stretching while you listen. Or catch up on one of your streamed shows and stretch during one of the episodes. Maybe do some standing stretches while waiting for the coffee to brew or while brushing your teeth. Using a habit that already exists is almost like the buddy system for a new habit that you’re not quite acquainted with yet.

5. Plan ahead.

I know for some of us planning ahead feels overwhelming, so if that’s you, maybe just skip right over this one. But if you are the type of person that needs things planned out for you, plan stretching, put it in your calendar, set a reminder, make it important. This can be especially useful if you’re already doing planned workouts, like through a Peloton stack or a combo of other classes from online programming. Simply tack on an extra five-minute session to the end of your workout before you even get started.

Note, planning ahead can also mean that you don’t schedule your workout, shower, and subsequent Zoom meeting so close together you have to cut out the stretching. For the record, this has me written all over it!

6. Make stretching less formal.

If you sit a lot during the day, stand up and move around, do a stretch or two, and then sit back down. Even doing some seated stretching will help. Seated figure four is a fave! Although guided yoga classes, stretching classes, or mobility workshops are amazing, you don’t have to commit 30 minutes or even longer if that is just too much for your body or mind to handle.

7. Let tech step in.

If tech is an option for you, use it! There are tons of apps and fitness trackers that will remind you to stand up, breathe, etc., and you can add in a stretch or two to these built-in reminders. Sometimes I find myself wanting to rebel against the tech tactics, but if you’re the kind of person who is motivated by things like closing those rings, it might help you!

8. Listen to your body.

If you feel like the Tin Man, it hurts when you stand up, or if your foot falls asleep way too much, take these as signs that your body needs some love—in the form of some targeted stretching, perhaps.

Once again I’ll say, though, give yourself some grace with these stretching tips. Taking care of our bodies should be a priority, but sometimes there are so many priorities that they all kind of bury each other. I get it; we all get it. Overwhelm is really having a moment these days, but hopefully, if you can find some time to do one or two stretches that make you feel good, you can use that to help get yourself to include it in your day somewhere. Sure, there might be some stretches that don’t feel great because you’re really tight. Start with the ones that help you relax, that really do make you feel better, and you just might find yourself a new habit.

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This post originally appeared on SELF and was published October 10, 2021. This article is republished here with permission.

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