Good morning everyone!
No, I am not a High school Football coach. Football does not fall in my areas of expertise, far from it. What I do is teach them a weekly Pilates class that focuses on stretching, relaxation, and building core strength. Hooray! These things I know about!
- The general importance of stretching
Relief of joint pain, increased strength and flexibility, improved joint and muscle health.
Many, I don’t know why I feel like putting men at the top of this list, have an innate dislike for stretching. A group of 40 athletic 18-year-old young men who spend their free time attacking each other for a ball are the leaders of this anti-stretching coalition. I get it, stretching hurts and is kind of boring. I personally love stretching now, it just takes a few minutes to get into it and I feel amazing after. Attempting to explain to this particular group of individuals that stretching is important because one day they may experience joint pain is almost a joke and very nearly an impossible task. I remember how invincible I felt at 18, and I didn’t have 39 like-minded compadres reminding me of the flood of testosterone coursing through my body at any given moment. Sigh. It was time to lay down the law! You know, you’re stretching whether you like it or not so lay down on the mat and save your screams of pain and mirth for after the class….or else. I can be very fear invoking 🙂
Anyways. I believe I wrote a little something on my stretching goals and the importance of it. I am not particularly flexible. Or perhaps I am, I am just surrounded by pictures on the web of people twisting their bodies around into an impossible pretzel so my scale is skewed.
To recap, stretching:
- Actually helps build strength,
- Reduces bulky muscles and lactic acid build up,
- Can help decrease/prevent post-workout soreness (obviously) and,
- Increases flexibility.
To add-on, stretching;
- Keeps joints healthy
- Keeps muscles healthy
- Lengthens muscles
- Guards against injury
2. Warming up vs. stretching
When I first started working out for real a while back, almost 10 years ago, for some reason the information was present that stretching before and after a workout was key. This is not the case. While stretching is important, stretching before the muscle groups are activated can actually cause damage. This may be a bad example, but if you have ever run a tight metal cap under warm water you will notice that it expands, loosens and becomes compliant. This is the same as muscles. If you stretch muscles that are not warmed up (now I’m thinking of a stale rubber band that snaps when you pull it too far, ouch) you can pull them and cause injury. This is where a warmup comes into play. Using a dynamic warm up to begin your workout heats up the muscles and gets them ready for what’s coming. Warm ups also help me mentally prepare for a workout. If I just dive right in to a workout there is a lot of mental groaning, and it’s hard to get into it. By doing some light easy exercises to warm up and get in workout-mode, I sail through my workouts easily.
It is important to pick warm up exercises that focus on the muscle groups the workout is geared towards. I.e. if you are doing a leg workout, choose warm up exercises that heat up the quads and hamstrings. You can also combine stretching with your warmup exercises to introduce mobility to your quiet joints and muscles, as long as you do not overextend anything before the muscles are warm. Stretching alone for a few minutes daily is a great way to keep your muscles conditioned I try to stretch every day in the morning for 5-10 minutes, after coffee. Obviously.
And that pretty much wraps it up!
Happy stretching 🙂