I want to talk to you today about stretching. This is one of the most overlooked parts of the workout. What’s the first thing to go when you’re in a rush? Usually it’s the stretching… Here are just a few reasons why you ensure that stretching is a part of your workout. I’m going to talk to you about the benefits of stretching as well as some tips to stretch properly.
When I train clients, I’m constantly hearing things like, “Well, I’m not sore so I don’t need to stretch” or “Well, I stretched out my calves since I had a hard run, but that’s all I needed”. In general, clients seem to think that the main focus is exercise, not stretching, which is correct, but it must come full circle. You need to get your body ready to exercise or you risk getting hurt, among other things. Although the benefits of stretching are mixed, it is widely accepted that stretching may help improve flexibility, which improves athletic performance and decreases risk of injury.
Having a full range of motion is crucial in exercise. Better flexibility will increase your range of motion by allowing your joints move through their full range of motion. Your calves, for example, attach to your Achilles Tendon. If this area becomes tight, your foot and ankle won’t be able to move through the entire range of motion, and over time, you’ll probably develop tendinitis in your Achilles tendon and potentially even low back pain from walking differently as a result of the tightness in your calf! Stretching also increases blood flow to your muscles, which is very important– especially in injury rehabilitation and recovery.
Now that we’ve talked a bit about why stretching is important, I want you to also understand some very important stretching tips to make sure you don’t get hurt! Remember that even if you stretch, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from getting an injury, but it definitely helps! Before you start stretching, remember also, that you always want to use proper technique, no matter where you are or what you’re stretching!
Always get a good warm up in. Stretching IS NOT a warm up!! I see this mistake made every day, but you can hurt yourself if you try to stretch “cold” muscles. Always warm up with some light walking or jogging at a low intensity for at least a few minutes to get your blood pumping and your muscles warmed up prior to stretching.
Make sure you don’t bounce when you stretch! This is another stretching faux paus that I see every day, especially out of super athletic people getting ready to play sports. This type of stretching, also known as ballistic stretching, can cause small tears in the muscle, leaving scar tissue as the muscle heals. This actually causes your muscles to tighten even more, making you that much more inflexible and prone to pain or injury. Try to hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Make sure that you stretch both sides, even if you’re only feeling tightness on one side. Focus on stretching everything, including: calves, quads, hammies, glutes, hip flexors, adductors, low back, pecs, neck, and shoulders. Click HERE for some examples and instructions for stretches. Make sure to spend extra time on muscles or joints that you use often!
Another common stretching misconception? DO NOT STRETCH UNTIL YOU FEEL PAIN! You should expect to feel some tension or tightness, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you’re feeling pain, you’ve pushed too far and need to back off until you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch at that point.
Try to make your stretches sport specific. If you’re a soccer player, for instance, you may be more prone to hamstring or quad strains, so spend a little extra time there.
I know that stretching can seem time consuming, but if you stretch regularly (at least 2 or 3 times a week), you’ll achieve the best benefits. If you don’t stretch often and consistently, you also risk losing any benefits that you’ve already gained from stretching, like your new and increased range of motion!
Overall, stretching is crucial to a healthy body and healthy life. You’ll have a better, more efficient workout and you’ll get stronger faster with an increased range of motion. Try taking a yoga class if you’re not sure of exactly where to start or contact me for a consultation where we can evaluate together where you’re inflexible and need some work.
Click HERE for some great examples of stretches for common body parts.