Stretching, why bother its boring?!
I know it can be boring and perceived as a waste of time but it is really not. If you want to be more powerful, run that race faster, kick or throw the ball further, increase your energy and generally be fitter, take the time to stretch.
Flexibly is one of the components to a person’s fitness. Others include strength, power, endurance, speed, balance, co-ordination, agility and skill. One of the end results of stretching is the increase in the length of your muscles.
So just to list a few, here are some of the benefits of stretching:
· Improves your range of movement.
o This basically means the distance/ amount you can reach, bend and move- all pretty important for day to day living. It also defines the distance your limbs can move before damage occurs to your muscles and tendons. For example a foot baller kicking a football, needs to have a large range of movement, the more flexible they are, the more powerful the kick.
· Increased power.
o Like I mentioned, stretching increases the length of your muscles and can therefore increase the distance your muscles can contract. This in turn increases your muscle power and athletic ability.
· Reduces muscle soreness.
o I know all of you have suffered from this at some point, especially after your first session with me! The soreness is a result of tiny muscle tears, blood pooling and a build-up of waste products, such as lactic acid. Stretching lengthens the muscle fibres, increases the blood circulation and removes waste products.
· Postural improvement.
o Not stretching can result in short tight muscles, which can cause poor posture and eventually pain, typically in the shoulders, neck and back. A very typical person in the city sits at their desk for 8 hours a day, in a poor position with their shoulders rounded. This lengthens and weakens the muscles in the shoulders and back. They then head to the gym and work on their “mirror muscles”, such as the chest and abdominals, and don’t stretch as they are short for time or think it is a waste of time. These chest and abdominal muscles are now short and tight, causing the shoulders to round over even more. Down the line this will cause them to take time off work from lower back or neck pain.
o Stretching to improve your posture can actually make you look slimmer too!
· Added benefits include, increase energy levels, stress relief and improved circulation.
There are two main types of stretching, static and dynamic.
· Static stretching is performed without movement, so for example stretching the front of the
thigh, by holdhing your ankle.
You should hold these types of stretches for 10-15 seconds. But if you are looking to increase your flexibility, hold for 10-15 seconds, increase the stretch, hold for 10-15 seconds, increase stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds.
· Dynamic stretching involves stretching with movement. This does not mean swinging aggressively or bouncing (never do this). Dynamic stretches involve a controlled soft swing and the force of the swing should gradually be increased. Eg. Swinging your arms above your head.
One of the common thoughts of stretching is that if I stretched before my workout then I don’t need to do it again at the end, or vice versa. Wrong! There are totally different reasons for stretching before and after exercise.
· Stretching before exercise.
o Firstly never stretch before you warm up. It is like trying to stretch an old, dry rubber band; they can snap. So warm up first for 10 minutes with a light-moderate exercise, and then do various dynamic stretches. This will continue to warm the muscles, deliver nutrients to the muscles and loosen the joints. The main reason to stretch before exercise is to prevent injury.
· Stretching after exercise.
o This is to aid the recovery of muscles and tendons and reduce the soreness that can come over the next couple of days.
o A good 5-10 minute cool down should also be involved in the post exercise stretch, as it prevents the blood pooling and promotes the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles also aiding in the recovery.
So in conclusion, when you are working out outside our sessions stretch!