BLOG 370 STRETCHING
Often times, stretching takes a back seat to our exercise routines. Yet, on our fitness journeys we need to take about 10 minutes per day to stretch. We mainly focus on the exercise portion of our journeys at the studio, but I want to emphasize the need to take a few moments at home to stretch. This can become a morning ritual to wake up the body for the day, an activity during T.V. time, or an evening de-stress and winding down routine. Not only will this help us with our recovery, but there are many benefits to stretching. The best part is that we can stretch anytime, anywhere.
So why is stretching a must?? To begin, “Stretching may help you improve your joint range of motion, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931). Blood flow to the muscles is also increased, therefore, helping to reduce soreness. As we age, our muscles do tighten and our range of motion decreases. Stretching is a preventative measure for this and by doing so we can make many of our daily living activities much easier. Picking up the newspaper from the floor doesn’t have to be such a daunting task each morning, or reaching over our shoulder to tuck our shirt tag in doesn’t have to be so hard. Other benefits include: “Reduce muscle tension, increased range of movement in the joints, enhanced muscular coordination, increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body, increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)” (http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/stretching_benefits.asp).
We naturally stretch all the time. When we have been sitting too long we might stretch our back out when we stand up or move our neck around after being at our desk too long. It does feel good to stretch. We live in the go, go, go mentality so taking the responsibility and time to stretch can be just another added task to our day that gets pushed aside.
It is important to practice good safety and techniques when stretching. Having knowledge of the different types of stretching is also beneficial. So let’s discuss the main forms of stretching. Static stretching is the most basic form and can be described as, “Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds” (http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/types-of-stretches). I prefer dynamic stretching which might include activities like our hill walks, jogs, high knees, butt kickers, etc. Passive stretching involves my assistance, or one can use a strap or wall in which there is a source of resistance. This method does allow one to get past their “comfortable” range of motion. My personal favorite, which I have a love-hate relationship with is self-myofascial release (SMFR) stretching with the foam roller. Your muscles contract due to the pressure of the foam roller and tension is released. It hurts so good. There are other, more complicated forms that are used for athletes such as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching or active isolated stretching.
Recently, I started a stretching routine myself because of my activity level and I want to be sure I’m at peak performance each day. I have started with 2 days per week just dedicating 15 minutes solely to stretching. I have developed greater body awareness and it feels good to relieve the tightness and soreness of my main target areas. Would I rather just go to bed?? Of course, but this practice has helped me to wind down and I feel a lot less tension especially in my quadriceps. As always, I want to practice what I preach so this is a new goal for myself too. Longevity is important, so 30 minutes each week stretching is well worth it to me. Take a moment to evaluate your stretching and let’s work together to make a new habit of this practice. As we know, this is a lifestyle process so to achieve optimal results we have to take care of our bodies and stretching is an important component of our fitness journeys.