Stretching.…One of the most underestimated aspects of fitness. For some reason, stretching has become an after-thought for most people, and is attributed to being something athletes, dancers, and contortionists need worry about. This mindset is extremely dangerous, therefore I decided to share some information on the matter. Studies have shown that stretching helps to reduce the risk of injury, reduce stress, and decrease muscular tension. A baseline level of muscular flexibility is important to your health, posture, and ability to complete everyday tasks with ease. So what do you do now? Here are some things you should know about stretching and how to implement it properly into your life.
Warm-Up! Don’t you dare think about starting that workout without warming-up. Warming-up increases core temperature, reduces injury risk, and helps make your workout much more productive. A good warm-up should consist of a general full body warm-up (like running or cycling), followed by specific dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are movements (similar to the movements you will be performing in your workout or activity) that allow the joint to go through the full range of motion. These stretches are not held. This in turn prepares the mind and body for the activity you will be engaging in. This should take about 7-10 minutes and will result in improvements the exercise execution.
Static stretches after exercise, not before! The best time to do your static stretching (where you hold the stretch at an end point for a length of time) is after an intense workout or competition, or as a separate session. Stretching post exercise may reduce muscle soreness and decrease muscular tension. Static stretches prior to exercise may decrease the performance of your muscles. Some activities may require static stretches at the beginning (i.e gymnastics, dance) but this must be done with care. Stretches must be held for a minimal 20-30 seconds and only at a level of mild discomfort. Breathe evenly as you hold the stretch and don’t bounce.
Stretch Daily! Stretching is something that should be done by everyone, everyday. Prime times for stretching is in the morning to energize your body and start your day, or in the evening to relax and release tension built up during the work day. People with high stress jobs and those who sit or stand all day are constantly building tightness in the back, neck, hips, and shoulders. Counteract this tightness by stretching these areas in the opposite direction of the position you’re in all day. Remember to hold these stretches for 20-30 seconds at a level of mild discomfort. Repeat each stretch 2-3 times to get an even faster result. Once you get into the habit of stretching daily, you will quickly notice the difference in the way your body feels.
So, make sure to start or end your day with stretches and remember to always start your workout with a warm up of dynamic stretches. Complete your workout with static stretches and relax into each position. You may use this time to focus in on your tasks for the day, prepare for physical activity, or simply relax the body after a long day at the office. A flexible fit body is a strong body.
Rachel Butler-Green is an Urban Med trainer, professional dancer and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. To set up a training appointment with Rachel, please contact Urban Med at 213-406-8055!