Stretching is so ingrained for me that if I get tight, I can feel the difference even when I’m sitting or walking around. My hips will pull a touch, my posture hunches a bit and my stride gets shorter and less fluid. And — here’s the kicker — if I haven’t been stretching, exercise and physical activity just starts to feel … hard. I get slower, and less nimble, and more tired — whether I’m running, skiing, playing tennis, or whatever.
Turns out, this isn’t in my head. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Stretching can help improve flexibility, and consequently, range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion, and enabling your muscles to work most effectively. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle.
So yeah, stretching. I’m a fan. The great thing is that it’s something anyone can do, pretty much anywhere (well, maybe not the grocery store …). You don’t technically need any equipment, but there is one accessory that is, IMHO, the most brilliant, versatile fitness accessory ever. It’s my Gaiam Restore Multi-Grip Stretching Strap.
Well, that’s Gaiam’s name for it. In my head, I call it my big green stretching snake.
It looks like this:
So what make this simple accessory so post-worthy? It’s three things:
- the padded area where you can place your foot, hand or any body part as a leverage point
- the multi-grip loops along the length of the strap
- its absolute versatility (hint: it’s not just for yoga)
Instead of having to wrap a plain strap around your foot or hand (while cutting off your circulation and turning your limbs blue), you use the padded area. And the loops allow you to start slow and work up the strap (securely) to the next loop when you’re ready to sink deeper. No more gripping and slipping.
Finally, the versatility. It’s fun to play around with it to see how it can help you reach those tight muscles in a way that may be difficult without some help. Some of the multi-grip straps even come with booklets or videos to give you ideas, like this one.
Plus, this thing is $11.99. Unlike your pricey Manduka mat, the big green stretching snake won’t put you into ramen territory.
P.S. It’s important to stretch safely and effectively to get the most out of it. For example, did you know you shouldn’t stretch before a workout? And never stretch to the point of pain. Go slooooow. If you’re a stretching newbie, take a peek at at these helpful articles before you dive in.
Have a good stretch!