I cannot count the number of times that I have seen people who would have started their workout routine without stretching which is without a doubt a very important part of your routine. In this article I would explain, how you should stretch and why it is crucial to do so, even if you are not working out on that specific day. Stretching is simple but there is a right way to stretch and a wrong way to stretch. The right way is by stretching slowly, being relaxed, and focusing on the muscles that are being stretched. The wrong way (practiced by many) is to bounce, or to push the stretch to the point of pain or beyond; these methods can do more harm than good. While some people are naturally more flexible than others, one can still accomplish it when it’s performed correctly. It is very important to note that there are different ways of stretching, it all depends on your individual achievement.
Here are a few pointers:
Stretch to the point where you feel a mild tension, then relax as you hold the stretch for five to 15 seconds. NO BOUNCING! The feeling of tension should ease as you hold the stretch. If it doesn’t ease off slightly until things feel comfortable, this reduces muscular tightness and readies the muscle for development stretch.
Move slowly into a developmental stretch, just about a fraction of an inch farther, until you feel mild tension and hold it for five to 20 seconds. No bouncing! Again, the tension should diminish. If not, ease off. Doing just the easy stretch will release tension and make you feel better. It’s valuable even without the developmental stretch because it helps maintain your current flexibility.
Note, breathe slowly and naturally. Do not hold your breath while stretching. This may seem insignificant but it is very important to keep your hands, feet, shoulders, and jaw relaxed as you stretch, tension in those areas will hinder your stretching. Whenever you stretch muscle fibers too far either by bouncing or pushing too far, a nerve reflex signals the muscle to contract. This stretch reflex is one of the body’s automatic defence mechanisms and keeps the muscles from being injured. When you over do it, you tighten the very muscles you’re trying to stretch.
Just a word of caution; pushing a stretch too far or bouncing can put serious strain on the muscles and activate the stretch reflex. Again, if you stretch too far, you may cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. These small muscle tears lead to formation of scar tissue, with a gradual loss of elasticity and that becomes a problem. Pain is a sign something is wrong in stretching. Pay attention to it and back off! Most stretching injuries have come from folks pushing too far too soon. You practise these steps and you lessen your chances of any serious injuries.
A flexible body is a stronger body and with proper technique you are unstoppable. Take it one day at a time, spend some time noticing and appreciating the benefits of your training and remember, we all have different levels of flexibility: Never, compare yourself with others. Stretching isn’t a contest. Everyone is different… I sincerely hope these pointers put you on a better path to a more efficient body. For more information keep reading the Health Plus Magazine in your Trinidad Guardian.