We love discovering our top stretchers! Meet Maria: a 20-year-old, world-class Irish dancer who loves keeping active and is passionate about physical wellbeing. Maria loves encouraging people to start stretching.
How did you get started with WeStretch?
Well, I’m pretty active in general, but when Karen created WeStretch, I hesitated to start something new. Then my mom started using it and I thought I should probably give this a try. I really like that it challenges you.
The app keeps records of your streaks and I definitely want to keep mine going strong. It holds me more accountable so that I actually stretch for ten minutes.
Are these stretches new to you?
WeStretch has both stretches I’ve done before and new ones. Some of them are different poses that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of being considered a stretch. WeStretch has done a good job of looking for a lot of people who like different stretches that aren’t the traditional ones.
When I say traditional stretches, I mean if I were to tell someone to go stretch, they would do the most generic things they could think of. Like leaning into the wall to stretch your calf, or to sit on the ground to reach for your toes, or stretching one arm across your body… Gym class style!
Is there a difference between yoga and WeStretch?
They are at the opposite ends of how you improve your range of motion! In yoga, the poses all flow into one another and build off each other. WeStretch is more of ‘Now we’re going to do this stretch and then this one,’ which is a good thing, too.
Yoga can be less structured than stretching because it’s going more with intuition. I’d say with WeStretch, it’s telling you exactly what you have to do, which requires almost no thinking.
I have definitely taken ideas from WeStretch for my yoga classes, though, trying to mix them up.
Where does your passion for movement come from?
I really enjoy different types of exercise. If I could, I would probably just work out all day. I would teach yoga all day, and move all day. Maybe not run all day, but I could be at the gym all day.
What is your longest stretching streak?
It was around 160 days. My streak was over five months long, and I cried when I lost it. I was incredibly frustrated! I even lost my streak once more and then I bought it back.
By the second time I lost it, though, I was over it, so I’m back at 35 days.
I usually realize it the next morning. I wake up and I wonder if I stretched yesterday, even though I know I did.
Which routines do you do?
I challenged myself to do the middle splits routine every day and I really like them! Usually, though, I just randomly scroll and pick a routine.
Mom and I decided to do the plank challenge. We were so ambitious, however, that we thought completing a 3-minute routine would be too easy, so we insisted on doing five minutes’ worth of plank stretches.
That was not a good time.
It truly isn’t worth doing a five-minute plank position routine to earn that badge. Just do three minutes, even if it’s from your knees.
When do you stretch?
I used to do a stretching routine whenever I felt like it, but now that I’ve started school, it’s become a part of my morning routine before I start class. I finish my stretching challenges and then I get ready for my day.
My favourite length of stretching is 14 minutes. I hate it when people challenge me for 15 minutes because I only want to do 14 minutes since it just looks like a good number of poses.
Do you have advice for people who don’t think they need to stretch?
I’d say, LIARS! Everybody needs stretches, regardless of fitness level. Literally, my age and younger are really the most inflexible, immobile people I’ve ever seen in my life.
At dance, there are ten-year-olds who can’t touch their toes. Like, are you kidding me? Do you want to be able to move when you’re thirty? Get up! Move!
You know, even my mom and I was thinking about my grandma. She has many things that are wrong with her and such bad mobility and just shuffles around. We are not going to be like that.
We’re going to keep doing the stretches because we are not going to be shuffle shuffles. I want to be able to get out of a chair when I’m 80!
I think that people are skeptical in general of doing exercise. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I’m not flexible, so I can’t stretch.” What does that even mean? If you want to change how you feel, you need to start doing something.
Start with five minutes, start with thirty seconds; just do anything. You know, most people- even myself- don’t want to do that, but then you start doing something, and by the end, you’re fine. It was worth getting up for.
How do you motivate yourself?
I find that if I don’t get up to stretch, it nags at me all day. I tell myself that I might as well just do it, because I know I’m going to feel better.
A lot of that comes from dance, knowing if I want to get where I want to be, then me sitting on the couch is not going to get me there.
You just need to have this priority that you’re going to put yourself first and that your physical and mental health is more important than sitting on the couch.
What is your story about Irish Dance?
I am in my 15th year of dance. Jenna and I didn’t start with the Knock O’Hogan School of Irish Dance (who we’re with now), but from the very first day we danced, we always worked on our own.
We never had coaches here with us all the time. We progressed quickly and learned everything right off the bat, which gives us an advantage now because we knew so much at a young age.
When we moved to Knock, it was a whole new world of how dance could be. We never thought that we could do any of the things that we eventually accomplished!
Competitive dance came with a lot of sacrifices, though. You have to decide what is important to you. You have to think, “Am I going to train fifteen hours a week or am I going to go hang out with friends and go to a party?”
Prioritize your goals and persevere.
If you are hesitant to start stretching or exercise, you really need to think about your priorities. Think about how you want to feel and where you want to be in ten years, five years, or even just next month, and find your motivation from there. That can be hard, but challenging yourself to start any type of physical activity is all you need.
If you don’t think you’re ready for a full-on fitness regime, start by stretching and seeing how it feels to move your body as a great first step. The more you do it, the more you’ll begin to see all that your body is capable of.
Choosing to put your health and well-being first is one of the best choices you could make. In doing that, you’re telling everyone else that you want to be there for life with them. You’ll be able to fully engage in everything that life throws at you.
Committing to your health will never be a bad thing. It will show you many amazing things about yourself and open many more doors to all the things you can do.
Interviewed and Written by Kayla Willsey
Updated May 11, 2021