If you've been working hard at your fitness routine, one thing that you must not neglect is a proper stretching routine. Stretching is very often left out of many people's workouts simply because they figure the payoff isn't that great and with time being a hot commodity, they'd rather spend more time doing cardio or strength training workouts.
But, stretching, when done properly, can actually improve your performance for those exercises while reducing your injury risk as well.
This said, there are a number of stretching myths that circulate, so let's take some time to dispel these myths so they don't catch you in their trap.
Myth #1: Stretching Should Hurt
The first myth surrounding stretching is that it should hurt to do. Many people think that it's going to cause great pain to move through stretching exercises.
Realize there is a difference between pain and discomfort. You will feel some slight discomfort when you stretch, thanks to that muscle being lengthened. But the minute you feel pain is the minute you should stop.
It should never downright hurt. If it does, you're either stretching too far or not performing the stretch properly.
Myth #2: Stretching Can Be Done Anytime
Another myth is that you can do stretching any time. People tend to think they can break out into stretches whenever. While they watch TV, in the morning before work, or before they do their workout session.
This isn't the case. In fact, stretching prior to doing a proper warm-up is asking for an injury to occur.
The body must be warm in order for you to fully benefit from stretching, so save it for after your workout session or after a light warm-up has been performed.
Never stretch a cold muscle. If you do, you're more likely to also feel the pain that mentioned in Myth 1 -- and you shouldn't.
Myth #3: Stretching Is Best For Tight Muscles
Finally, the last myth is that stretching is best suited to tight and sore muscles. The number one time when most people will begin to stretch is when they wake up after a hard workout and feel that muscle tighten up. Now, they are prompted to stretch because of it.
But for optimal results, you should be stretching all areas of your body all the time. The old saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it," really applies to flexibly. If you aren't regularly performing stretching exercises for all muscle groups in the body, as you get older, your range of motion is going to become shorter and shorter.
And, once you've lost flexibility, it's much harder to get back than it is to simply maintain it. By stretching regularly, regardless of whether your muscle is tight or not, you can best maintain your flexibly for the long run. This in turn can really help you stay active for many years to come.
So don't let yourself fall for these stretching myths. Stretching is a vital component of any workout program, but must be done properly.
Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 12 years now. She is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding.com and has also been named 'Writer Of The Year' two times running. She's also contributed well over 400 articles to a variety of different websites dedicated towards muscle building and athletic performance.