Improve both your exercise routine and your daily life by adding some simple stretches
Light weights are extremely helpful when stretching your arm muscles
STRETCHING is a key part of an exercise regimen, and something that a lot of us neglect. I find stretching only becomes important to you after you have had an injury.
Most people are exercising to a strict timeline, there are children to collect, work to get to, dinners to be made; life is hectic.
As well as this, there is a huge emphasis on high-intensity training, as if this was the be all and end all, as if giving anything less than 150pc during your exercise time just isn't good enough.
Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of vigorous workouts, you know that if you've attended my classes, I like to call it getting your sweat on, but there is a lot more to exercising than this sweaty frenzy.
We are all guilty of trying to pack the maximum high intensity exercise into our exercise time, not cooling down, not stretching AND getting away with it, injury free . . . but this won't last forever! In time, this lack of flexibility will lead to injury and will surely put a fat-laden spanner in the works of your 2013 health and fitness plan!
If you would like to continue working out for years to come, whether it be high-intensity or otherwise, or if you just want an extra little spring in those non-athletic endeavours of everyday life, then you need to embrace stretching and include it in your day.
Before you stretch
Once you have finished your workout, you need to cool down. This helps to bring your breathing, body temperature and heart rate back to normal slowly. The purpose of this cool down, which is actually the most overlooked component of an exercise regimen, is to allow the blood to properly distribute itself between the heart and muscles.
This helps to remove lactic acid, which may have built up around the muscles during your workout.
If you don't cool down pooling can occur, meaning that the blood can pool up around your muscles in the legs which can cause insufficient blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
This leads to that feeling I am sure you have all had at some point post exercise: light headedness, dizziness, nausea, and feeling generally zapped of energy.
To cool down safely, just decrease the intensity of whatever form of exercise it is you are engaging in for 5-10mins post workout.
A time to stretch
There are many schools of thought when it comes to how to stretch, when to stretch, and whether to stretch at all.
Like anything, it depends on what you are training for and it is important to listen to your body and its needs.
In general I recommend you stretch as often as you can. I would advise a short, dynamic stretch at the beginning of your workout and a longer, static stretch at the end of your workout.
What is the difference between these two types of stretching? Dynamic Stretching involves slow controlled movements through a full range of motion, eg leg curls, shoulder rolls, hip twists, and half squats, which increases blood flow to the muscles, reducing stiffness and tightness, making it ideal pre workout prep.
With Static Stretching, there is no movement, which makes it ideal post workout. Stretch until a gentle tension is felt in the muscle and then hold.
To improve flexibility and mobility hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds post work out, when the muscles are warm and more supple.
Benefits of Stretching
Increases Flexibility and Suppleness
When your body is stiff, slower, and less fluid, you are more susceptible to muscle strains, ligament sprains, and other injuries.
Research has shown that flexible muscles recover more quickly after working out because they are more receptive to glycogen replacement; essentially this is what will fuel your next workout.
Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles, which brings nourishment to these muscles as well as removing waste by-products like lactic acid. Increased blood flow can also help speed up recovery from muscle and joint injuries.
Improves balance and coordination
The increased flexibility that comes from stretching improves balance and coordination. Improved balance and coordination lowers your risk for falls.
Helps alleviate lower-back pain
Many people suffer from lower-back pain and I often see people shying away from working out or feeling like they are unable to do certain forms of exercises as a result.
A lot of the time your lower back isn't actually the problem. Stiff and tight muscles in the hamstrings, hips and buttocks are one of the more common causes of lower back pain. If you have a comprehensive stretching program, and ensure that these muscles are targeted, you will help to alleviate the pain.
Even if you don't frequent the gym or work out regularly, you should try to stretch for 10-20 mins before you go to bed, as it will help you relax and aid your ability to fall asleep. Try stretching classes like Yoga, which is a wonderful workout for mind and body.