For the past few months, getting out of bed and performing our daily tasks has been nothing short of a triumph of the will for plenty of Americans, and people all over the world.
We all learned a valuable truth about ourselves that no other generation in living memory has…
It wasn’t lack of time that was keeping us from our goals… It was energy.
And it’s not just that we’re psychologically drained (although that’s certainly true – the allostatic load of six straight months of negativity in the news, including the brink of World War Three, the coronavirus death toll, our separation from our families, restricted access to our former coping mechanisms, relational strains, near constant protesting of every stripe, plus our own trauma and baggage we’re each carrying every day… it’s exhausting.)
But on a molecular level, we’re not approaching our lives with sufficient energy.
Our ever-available stimulants, overtaxed adrenal glands, and compromised mitochondrial integrity mean we’re starting off behind the curve whenever we set out to increase our natural energy reserves.
Part of our problem is something really obvious… but our confusion is understandable.
You see, people who experience fatigue chronically – who think they’re getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, refraining from the use of depressants like alcohol – often rest when they feel tired.
Makes sense, right?
Except that rest doesn’t restore our cellular energy when our fatigue is chronic.
And if you’re particularly fatigued, and it’s been going on for a while, and your exercise has been lacking, you might want to ease your way back in with stretching.
Stretching is a gentle movement modality, just like yoga or Qigong.
Let’s look at two of the broader categories of stretching and what they can do for you…
Static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Anyone who played organized sports as a child ought to recognize this form of stretching. Static stretching involves extending individual muscle groups at a time for a set amount of time, usually 30 seconds, and usually only at the end-range of a muscle…
For example, the overhead triceps reach, the seated butterfly pose, the cobra pose, or the head-to-knee forward bend.
Although this type of stretching used to be the recommendation to warm up muscles prior to exercising, it’s now recommended as the stretching you do at the conclusion of an exercise session.
One criticism of static stretching is that it impedes quick reaction times if done prior to a work out. But done after a workout, static stretching can help to increase flexibility, prevent injury, and raise the blood flow and circulation to each muscle group stretched.
This ultimately allows nutrients to travel farther and repair and feed our cells as needed, resulting in more energy.
So what is dynamic stretching?
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching involves the entire range of motion of a particular muscle group. It’s typically done at the beginning of a work out, and tends to mimic the movements you’ll be doing in the work out itself.
Or in this case, if you’re using stretching as a way to reintroduce movement to your daily routine, it can mimic the movement you’d like to return to.
Dynamic stretching involves sinking into and rising in strength from a series of poses in motion. Instead of concluding the stretch at the end of the muscle range, dynamic stretching involves moving the muscle past its end range and back to its starting position.
The full range of motion is repeated 10-12 times. Stretches like the torso twist, walking lunge, leg swing, and high kicks are all examples of dynamic stretching.
Similarly to static stretching, dynamic stretching increases blood flow throughout the body, but it also keeps joints agile and lubricated, contributing to overall health and energy.
It can be tempting to jump right back into high intensity exercise… but over thousands of years of studying the human body, we know that every movement has its time, place, and function.
It would make sense if you’ve been tired these last few months.
But even if you’ve been tired for years, the path to feeling alert once again begins with movement.
Start by stretching – dynamic in the morning, and static in the evening. Simply bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your cells will go a lot farther than you might think!