With every client and class, before and after a session, I will ensure there is a thorough stretching routine. So often, stretching gets forgotten. I am guilty of, in the past, forgoing a warm up stretch or a cool down stretch in favour of getting out of the gym, or having a sit down and not moving for the next hour…
That extra 5 minutes BEFOREhand can make all the difference:
I am sure we all have heard the analogy of a piece of elastic or adhesive putty – the warmer it is, the more gently it is stretched out, increased gradually over time, the further it will be able to go without snapping. When muscles are cold, and if we go to run, lift weights, squat, the range of motion is inhibited, we can find our technique is compromised due to tightness in key muscles, and ultimately we do not get the most effective – or safe – workout we could get. Stretching helps reduce injury and, therefore, reduce set backs in your training regime,
And AFTER, don’t just sit back down on the sofa:
Once muscles have been used, they need to relax. Dynamic stretching (stretching whilst moving, not standing still) followed by static stretching will ensure the blood flow and transportation of nutrients to the muscles, there is no sudden ‘shock’ stop to the activity, and your heart rate and body temperature are both given time to reduce and return to a close-to pre-exercise state. This will help that pesky DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) be a little less uncomfortable over the next couple of days, and help with your recovery in general.
Flexibility and daily benefit:
How often have you gone to put on your shoes and found you can get down to reach them? Do your find you have rounded shoulders? Or have you found your legs are agony after walking or a long day in heels? A regular programme of flexibility will help loosen up those tight muscles, and improve your range of motion to enable you to perform your daily activities more efficiently and with much less discomfort!
Stretching also helps correct posture; working on the musculature of the neck, back, chest and abdominals can bring the spine in to better alignment. Furthermore, stretching relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow – a few good stretches halfway through your day can help wake you up!!
So – what can you do?
You can stretch standing up or sitting on a chair if you find standing for a long time difficult, some find using a towel or a flexibility band helpful for those big reaches:
Work upper body to lower body, really concentrating on achieving optimal range of motion (we are not looking for contortionist-level flexibility here!). For example – to be able to reach overhead comfortably, touch your toes, reduce any tightness in the upper back or in the calves (especially if you walk a lot in high heels!), hip flexor and piriformis movement (in the buttocks and front of thigh)…and more.
To find out more and learn how to achieve optimal flexibility and functional fitness, get in touch and consider Personal Training to feel the best version of you!