Stretching is better when you smile.
When you stretch regularly, every part of you is relaxed. Your body. Your mind. And when you relax, you smile. You don’t grunt and groan like many do when they stretch.
That is one of many things Grand Master Park taught me. I still follow his advice to this day.
The Essence of a Stretch
Stretching, by its nature, is meditative and serene. While stretching, focus on your breathing. Sense how your body is reacting to the stretch. Be present in that moment and take your mind off everything else.
Think about the last time you were in pain. Maybe from a head or muscle ache, pulled muscle, or some other injury? When you don’t stretch properly, your body tenses up. You feel the same kind of pain. This is why stretching is great for both mental and physical stress.
Here’s a Secret
Your maximum stretch should never be painful. It’s okay to feel some discomfort. If you’re in actual pain, though, your body is going to shut down. And you’ll have to stop way before you hit your peak.
Another secret: don’t rush your stretches. Breathe. Relax. Your pace should feel pleasant. Always remember, stretching is better when you smile.
Youth and Maturity
Regrettably, I didn’t pay enough attention to stretching when I was a younger student. When you’re young, you’re more flexible and things take less time to get going.
When you’re older, you have to stretch. But if you learn the importance of stretching when you’re younger, you can maintain that good flexibility much further into your older years. If you don’t, it’s much more difficult.
Master Smith, one of my instructors, is a great example of this. He is in his 50s and I noticed that his flexibility improved more as he went from his 40s to his 50s than it did from his 30s to his 40s. He stretched normally when he started training. As he got older, though, he focused more on his stretching. I noticed a dramatic improvement in his flexibility after he kicked it into high gear.
Stretching is important, but it doesn’t happen first. You need to warm up your muscles before you stretch. If you try to stretch cold muscles, you will never get a full and complete stretch. You need to move, get your blood pumping, and get a sweat going. Only then should you begin to stretch.
That’s why we start class with about 20 minutes of light training. This could be calisthenics, jogging, push-ups, sit-ups, patterns, etc. Once I feel my body is warm and a sweat is starting to break, that’s when I begin my stretch. That’s always when I have my best stretch.
Some trainers favor warming up over stretching. I suppose that if you only have time for one, I would recommend warming up. Stretching cold muscles could put yourself at greater risk of injury during training. Both are always better, though!
I also stretch after training. Then, my body is completely relaxed.
Are you warming up before you stretch? Are you focused on relaxing to get your best stretch? Remember the words of Grand Master Park: stretching is better when you smile.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!