Written by Jeff Roberts
At the vibrant age of 25, I can whole heartedly say that I wish I would have done more stretching growing up. Even though I’m correcting my mistakes now, I absolutely feel the consequences of my teenage physical neglect.
A constant soreness in the neck, tight, cramped muscles, back pain and serious inflexibility are but a few outcomes of my carelessness with stretching throughout the years.
I feel there wasn’t enough emphasis placed upon the importance of stretching when I was in school. In fact, the little bits I remember learning about stretching, to my surprise, turned out to be completely wrong! Did you know that stretching before a workout can be dangerous? Well neither did I, which is why I put together this article to address some crucial tips for proper stretching.
The Amazing Benefits Of Stretching
1) Helps improve flexibility (Obvious one- increases your range of motion)
2) Better balance
3) Assists in correcting posture
Stretching lengthens tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position (because of so much time being spent at our computers, many of us have tight chest muscles which pulls the shoulders and head forward, leaving us with a hunched shoulder look).
4) Potential to decrease injury by preparing muscles for work before activity
5) Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness
6) Keeps your glutes active
Sandra Hahamian, certified personal trainer, says that when you’re sitting, the nerves that activate your glutes can shut down in a very short period of time.
“If you are a repetitive ‘sitter,’ the glute muscle begins the process of atrophy. This means that the glute muscle begins to degenerate (not in a good way). When your glutes shut down, other muscles and joints in your body become over-stressed and can result in pain in places such as the knees and lower back. The most effective way to combat this problem is to keep your glutes active. “Getting up and stretching your glutes and hip flexors is a good first step to wake up these muscles. Whether you workout or not, stretching these tight muscles can reduce future injury and pain,” Sandra Hahamian, Certified Personal Trainer.
7.) Keeps your thoracic spine healthy
Your thoracic spine, which is located in the middle of your back, is very important to stretch and move. Simple rotational stretches throughout the day are extremely important if you drive, sit, or just stay in one place for a few hours of the day, Hahamian says.
“When the thoracic spine becomes tight, it can create many problems up and down the chain of the body,” Hahamian says. “I have seen my clients’ necks, shoulders and chest tighten up or become unstable and weak with a tight thoracic spine.”
8) Helps you find your daily zen
Even a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) of stretching can calm the mind, provide a mental break and give your body a chance to recharge.
9) Releases emotional tension
Classes like yoga or Pilates offer you a chance to spend an hour releasing tension physically and mentally.
4 Things You Need To Know About Stretching
1) Warming up is a MUST
“To improve range of motion and avoid injury, you do need to stretch, but don’t ever do it when muscles are cold,” warns orthopaedic surgeon William Levine, MD, director of sports medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “Always start with some mild aerobic warm-ups to get blood to the tissue before doing any stretching.”
Brisk walking or a light jog will do the trick to wake up your muscles. This will increase blood flow, increasing body temperature, thereby making your muscles more elastic.
2) Dynamic stretching is better than static
Dynamic stretching involves slow, controlled movements as opposed to still, long drawn out positions (static). This could include arm circles, leg kicks and torso twists. The flowing movements of yoga are also considered dynamic stretching. It must be stressed that dynamic stretches have to be done with proper form as there is a possibility of injury with this type of stretching. Here are three recommended dynamic stretches:
- Goose-step march: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you, alternating as you walk with your normal stride length. While others may think you’re doing a Monty Python skit, it is an effective hamstring stretch.
- Knee lifts: As you’re jogging or walking, bring knees up toward your chest. For a variation, as your right knee comes up, twist the lifted leg gently to the left and your upper body gently to the right for a spinal twist. Repeat on each side as you jog or walk (warning: you may be mistaken for a Rockette).
- Butt-kick: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. It’s not punishment; it stretches the quadriceps.
3) Consider doing yoga
“Improving your flexibility allows you to put your body in good ergonomic alignment,” says Mary Pullig Schatz, MD, a retired surgical pathologist, yoga expert, and author of Back Care Basics. “Yoga can help you combine flexibility and strength, breathe properly, reduce head, neck, and back pain, and put the body back in balance.”
4) After your workout or competition, then do static stretches
Too many people do static stretching before and then nothing after. Doing static stretching after your workout is where you’ll lengthen muscles and improve your flexibility. Hold static stretches for about 30 seconds.
Implementing This Routine Will Change Your Life
If you haven’t done so already, I can guarantee you that incorporating a regular stretching regime, along with some other mild-moderate physical activity into your daily routine will dramatically shift your energy levels and mood throughout the day. I started doing this recently and have noticed so many things shifting for me in a positive way. You will feel more physically relaxed, less restricted and all around more vibrant during your waking hours.
I extend the challenge to you right now, to try a light warm-up along with some stretching for at least 10 minutes every morning. Afterwards, share with us how this makes you feel in the comment section below.
Good luck and happy stretching!
Originally posted @ Collective Evolution