Stretching is amazing. It lengthens our muscles, keeping them healthier for longer. It improves our heart health, reduces pain, reduces our risk of injury... but it often gets skipped at the end of our workouts. Maybe we're tired, maybe we're out of time and we convince ourselves we'll stretch later. Either way, stretching is often very low on our list of priorities.
This is a shame, as we miss out on all those benefits described above. Taking up yoga (with one of our best yoga mat entries, naturally) or using the best foam roller once a week often becomes the only way we do any mobility work.
However, this doesn't apply to everyone. Gymnasts are naturally well-known for their incredible flexibility attained by rigorous stretching routines. YouTuber Keltie O'Conner, who has always wanted to be able to do the splits, decided to take on the challenge of stretching like a gymnast every day for 30 days.
"My flexibility is cr*p, so let's devote an entire month to stretching like an Olympic gymnast!" Check out how she got on below:
Watch Keltie's month of stretching exercises here:
Keltie's stretching routine, gleaned from research into gymnasts' habits, was to stretch six days a week for 30 minutes, and 15 minutes one day a week followed up with some foam rolling. The stretches she attempted are as follows:
- Seated forward fold
- Single-leg forward fold
- Box splits variations
- Runner's lunge
- Kneeling hamstring stretch
- Pigeon pose
- Downward dog
- Wrist mobility variations
- Back band/wheel pose
All this was done along with additional shoulder and hip mobility exercises. "We don't even realize they have all this mobility," says Keltie, halfway through her journey and trying a particular spine and shoulder-straightening motion. "It's not just splits. My god, I'm so immobile!"
By the end of the challenge, Keltie's range of motion drastically increased in all of the above stretches and poses, along with improvements to her posture. She reports a huge benefit, and said: "I hope this resonates with someone, because this is the proudest I'd ever felt of my body, after this challenge.
"I put in the work every day, and did the stretches, but I didn't get the full splits within the month so I was hesitant about posting this. I hope you realize you should always chase goals and try to improve, but the satisfaction isn't always in the end goal. You have to take pride in the little things."
Stretching can be painful, frustrating, and challenging, as improvements can be incremental and it's a lot harder to see your progress than it is in more measurable goals, such as weight lifted or miles run. That might be why it's not very popular. However, it's so beneficial that everyone should be taking five minutes each day to maintain and increase their flexibility. Never tried it? Check out our beginner's guide to stretching exercises.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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