Just a quick little article to cover the importance of stretching. Why? People are in the final push of training far harder than normal around this time of year, trying to whip their bodies into full ‘beach mode’ for the upcoming breaks, so here’s a little reminder of why not to overlook your stretches, and why it’s so important! Just by having a 2-3 minute stretch after every session, you’ll feel and see proper, real-life benefits. Check out the following favourite 5 (of many) reasons why I think it’s the way forward, and a couple of extra stretch ‘idea’ pictures to get you started, all shot at the gorgeous Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco.
1) RETAIN MUSCLE BALANCE: By not stretching after workouts, you’ll (through time) begin to experience posture problems, and suffer muscle imbalance. These days, it’s not uncommon for a person to sit at his or her desk for 10 hours solid, only to break for a coffee. Certain muscles will naturally tighten, and others weaken. For example, the hip flexors are in a mildly contracted state whilst seated; after a while the hip flexor can tilt the pelvis forward, causing the spine to round, which is a classic precursor to back pain. It’s worth just stretching out your body for just a few minutes everyday – the pelvis, hip flexor, back, neck and shoulders to help your body stay conditioned, ready for another day of serious, hardcore chair-sitting.
2) ENSURE FUTURE MOBILITY: As you grow wiser (older), stretching should help to keep you mobile whilst reducing the risk of injury. Britain is effectively an ageing population of sedentary office workers, which is a bit of an orthopaedic epidemic waiting to play out! It’s wise to stretch for years in advance to avoid being part of the ‘cast & crew’ 😀
3) REDUCE SORENESS: After a mega workout, the muscles will stay in an ever-so-slightly-contracted state, especially after a serious ‘get me in beach shape NOW’ kind of workout. My preferred way to accelerate bodily recovery and avoid too much of the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is to stretch a lot afterwards. It should help to elongate and soften your muscle fibres, which in turn will help to re-condition you for your subsequent training session.
4) ENCOURAGE SUPPLE FLEXIBILITY: A proper stretch should improve your range of motion within a joint by stretching out the soft tissue which surrounds it (i.e. muscles tendons & ligaments). That’s rarely a bad thing!
5) KEEP YOU UPRIGHT!: Somewhat amusingly, regular stretching helps to prevent you from falling over, as by increasing the range of motion in your joints, it has been clinically proven to help improve the ability to balance, and make fine spatial adjustments!
‘WHAT TYPES OF STRETCHING CAN I DO ???’ you ask…
1) Dynamic Stretching – first, try to warm up for 5-10 minutes (which will help your muscles to ready themselves for the onslaught), then include the ‘dynamic’ form of stretching. It means, quite simply, ‘stretching whilst moving’. The stretches should be held for no more than 3-10 seconds each, e.g. front-to-back leg swings, knee-hugs, quad-holds, hand-walks, arm swings, walking lunges, lunging-and-reaching, etc.
2) Static Stretching – these are to be performed after the workout, and are supposed to be held far longer for 10-30 seconds (or if possible, more). They may feel slightly uncomfortable, (somewhat of ‘a stretch’) which is perfect, so long as they don’t feel painful. Do try to avoid ‘bouncing’ up and down whilst holding a static stretch, as they’re not supposed to be forced; rather, gradually and over time, static stretches should lengthen and relax the muscle.
So with that in mind, enjoy a more supple tomorrow, and the unrestricted use of your limbs in 50 years time! Faya x
See more of Faya’s workout posts at her blog here: http://fitnessontoast.com