As a dancer, I hear it all the time: “I’m afraid of lifting weights because I don’t want to lose my flexibility”. On the flip side, I also often hear “I don’t have enough time to implement stretching into my regimen, because I am primarily focused on building muscle right now.”
Personally, I’m in an interesting position when it comes to both of these scenarios because although I am a dancer, I lead a small group fitness classes that revolves around heavy equipment: dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX straps, row machines, slam balls, and plyo-boxes. Simultaneously, I lead a stretching class, practice yoga routinely, and teach technique based dance classes five hours a week. I mention all this to emphasize the consistent overlap that both weight and flexibility training have in my life on a daily basis, and to further place emphasis on the amount of balance it takes to successfully cater to both practices, while working towards my overall health and wellness goals.
So how do we find balance between weight lifting and stretching? I think it’s crucial to understand the science between what you’re doing to your muscles when you are lifting weights, in order to appreciate the immense value that a stretching regimen can bring to your life. Lifting weights tones, lifts, and strengthens your muscles, which is incredible for posture, definition, and overall muscular health. However, at the same time, lifting weights places strenuous contractions on the muscle, and also causes microscopic tears in the tissue of the muscle. If we are constantly initiating contraction and placing strain on both the muscular and connective tissue without lengthening and deepening the range of motion of the muscle, then we are not working hard enough to counter balance our weight lifting, and are ultimately promoting injury.
If weight training is an important part of your life, or even just an area of fitness in which you are hoping to become more involved, then I highly suggest allocating an equal to even greater amount of time to stretching! Here are some ways in which you can do that:
- Dedicate 15 minutes of your morning and 15 minutes of your evening to some “floor time” in which you stretch in the butterfly, pike, straddle, pigeon, and supine position.
- INVEST IN A FOAM ROLLER- do it, like Nike says, just do it people. Your body will thank you for it.
- If you cannot do 15 minutes in the morning, do not leave the house without doing at least some shoulder rolls and neck rolls, (remember-mindful movement whenever it comes to your neck, of course!)
- Find a yoga class (even if it’s online and you follow along at home!)
- Find a stretch class.
- Do it with a buddy.
- Buffer the end your workout with at LEAST 10 minutes in order to stretch and cool down.
Our bodies are incredible, they do so much for us daily even when we aren’t working out. We get one body and we must thank it, nurture it, and take care of it. Maintaining flexibility is crucial to promoting optimal health while aging. The excuse, “I just don’t have time to stretch” doesn’t work, friends! We seriously cannot afford to skip out on any and every opportunity we have to focus on the mind-body connection between breath and muscular relaxation.
Lastly, stretching and relaxation are a form of self-love. By undoing all of the harshness and strain placed on our bodies daily, we are continuing the idea of gratitude and overall appreciation for these beautiful vessels of the soul.
Remember- breathe in as you lengthen, breathe out as you deepen.