One simple truth about most fat guys… we’re about as limber as a 2×4. I know when I took a flexibility test recently I had trouble just reaching the testing device. Whether it’s our gut getting in the way of a good stretch or it’s our muscles being tighter than an old pair of Jordash jeans, stretching for fat guys is just not an easy thing. Unfortunately it is something we really, really need to do more often. So let’s talk about proper stretching.
As I’ve mentioned before my particular focus lately is on running, so a lot of the stretching I’m going to discuss is around that. But really any stretching we can do is good for us. Too often I find myself sitting in front of a computer for ten to twelve hours a day, and it shows in my flexibility (and my diameter!). When I started running again I was finding myself unable to really push my stride out and a large factor in that was my complete lack of flexibility. By adding a good stretching regime I have been able to increase my stride and get a better workout in. Plus I feel better the next morning!
So how did I do it? First, we have the natural obstacle of our guts that we have to overcome. The easy answer for that is to stretch horizontally while still standing. Don’t try and bend over to stretch. It’s too easy to lose your balance and get hurt, especially if (when!) you stretch at the end of your workout. And stretching while sitting often encounters the big belly barrier, as I like to call it. So use a low bench, a big rock, anything that you can use to elevate your foot to a 20 degree angle or so and then stretch that leg out. It keeps your gut from being compressed and it allows you to get a really good stretch in.
As you stretch, take your time! Slowly lower yourself down and continue to lower yourself for a count of 15. Then slowly pull yourself back up. Do this two to three times on each leg. Once you are done with straight leg stretching work those knees out. Too often we fat guys get lock legs as we run and it makes us kind of shuffle. You want to progress through your calves and quads, knees, hips, lower back, and then upper body. For the hips and lower back do very slow twists and hold at the furthest position you can reach for a five count.
Once your lower body is done move on to your upper body. You may not realize it but when you run a lot of the work gets done up there, and it’s an easy place to carry tension. Slowly work your shoulders and neck. Taking your time to do a nice slow stretch can prevent injury. Never use sharp motions or bouncing when you are stretching, that can lead to serious problems. A good stretch should take you 8-10 minutes to perform.
Make sure to stretch before and after your workout if at all possible. If you cannot do a full stretch after, make sure to take time to at least work the kinks out of your legs and shoulders. You will be thankful you did the rest of the day. Failing to stretch after a hard workout can actually lead to decreased flexibility, and we’re already dealing with that problem as fat guys. All in all, stretching is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your overall health and the effectiveness of your workouts.