Welcome to spring everyone! As the daylight hours grow longer and the weather warms up, many of us become more active, especially outdoors, emerging from a sort of hibernation. This means getting back on our bikes, lacing up our cleats for soccer and baseball/softball on the grass, and even getting back out into our gardens to weed, rake, mow, etc.
I am all for everyone getting more active, (of course!); I also want to make sure that it brings everyone greater pleasure and not added pain. Therefore, I would like to talk to you about that often neglected third aspect of physical fitness: flexibility!
Flexibility training is as important a part of your workout as any other. Unfortunately, many people who are pressed for time omit this part of their workout, believing that it is not as beneficial as Cardio training, or Resistance training.
In fact, the opposite is true. By incorporating stretching into your daily and workout routines, you’ll be able to improve your performance in all areas of your life. Stretching regularly will improve your flexibility, making it easier to be in good posture, helping you perform every day activities such as bending and reaching and twisting, and will decrease your chance of injury.
Stretching and flexibility activities can often be relaxing. A chance for your muscles to lengthen and your body and mind to unwind after a tough day or long workout.
Stretching isn’t just a necessary part to your workout; you can add it into your day as well. Stretch after gardening, raking, yard work and housework, when your muscles are warm from your activity. Current research indicates that the most effective and the safest time to stretch is at the end of your workout or activity. When your muscles are warm, they are able to relax and stretch further, decreasing your chance of injury.
Dynamic stretches, or moving stretches, are perfect for the workplace to help prevent repetitive strain injuries. Wrist circles, shoulder and arm circles, hip and ankle circles, and reaching movements can all help your body get through your work day.
Now that you know why it’s good to stretch, let’s talk about how to do it well:
As mentioned above, there are two types of stretching – active and static. Static stretching is easing into a stretch and holding it for 10-60 seconds with no movement. Active stretching is moving the joint through its natural range slowly and controlled for a number of repetitions.
Always warm up with mild aerobic activity before static stretching. Never stretch cold muscles. I recommend saving static stretches for after your activity, while using active/dynamic stretching as part of preparation for your physical activity.
Exhale as you lean into your stretch until you feel a mild tension, then hold – do not bounce. After about 10 seconds, the tension should subside. If it does not, this may be a sign that you have stretched too far. Ease off the stretch until the tension does subside after about 10 seconds. Then, exhale and stretch a little farther, until you again feel a mild tension. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. Repeat this cycle two to three times.
When active/dynamic stretching, start slowly and move within a small range of motion. Gradually increase the range of motion of the joint as you do more repetitions. Examples of this type of stretching would be walking forward, backward and sideways, or jogging, (sometimes on the spot), by raising the knees high in front of you and/or your heels towards your own bum.
Never stretch to the point of discomfort or pain. Stretching should feel good.
Do not hold your breath. Always remember to breathe rhythmically during your stretches.
Whenever stretching, always be in good posture.
Wishing you all a most enjoyable spring/summer of activity!
If you wish to receive an email with a reference guide for static stretches to get you started, or for any other related inquiries please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I do offer a complimentary 60 minute consult to see how personal training can help you with your health and fitness goals, and for those of you who see Sharon, please note the tremendous convenience of being able to find me at my studio just downstairs in the same building! (Door #23 on the main floor.)