Stretching is a form of physical exercise when you flex or stretch specific muscles to increase flexibility or relieve tension in the muscle. Stretching is a natural instinct for most people; we stretch when we wake up, after a long car ride or after sitting at a desk for a long period of time. Not many people realize the importance of stretching if you live and active lifestyle. Flexibility can help speed muscle recovery and help reduce the risk of injury which is why most athletes stretch before and after physical exercise.
If you are doing the #MA30DAY program you have seen the days in your program set aside for foam rolling and stretching. If it wasn’t important I would not recommend it for all of my clients. I foam roll and stretch too! It is very important for your muscle recovery. Here are a few reasons a good stretch can benefit you.
- Increase in range of motion. Range of motion is the full movement potential of a joint; if the muscles around the joint are tight the range of motion can be limited. As we age our muscles naturally tighten and we need to stretch them out to maintain our range of motion. Simple things like bending down to tie a shoe or zipping up a dress may become difficult or impossible to do.
- Better posture. Posture is extremely important; when posture becomes compromised it can affect how our internal organs function in addition to creating a “slouching” appearance in the shoulders and back. If you live an active lifestyle you will notice when your posture affects your activities. Slouching over while running can make it difficult to breath which can limit the oxygen being sent into the body. This can cause dizziness and shortness of breath. If you lift weights or do some form of resistance training you know that form is everything. If you don’t have correct posture you won’t get the most out of your workout, since you may need to overcompensate with other muscles to complete your reps you can potentially injure yourself.
- Increased blood flow. Stretching increases blood flow and circulation in the body’s muscles and joints. Increased blood flow can help circulate more oxygen in the body, relieve stress and increase energy levels.
A few things to keep in mind are:
- Don’t bounce, keep your movements smooth and fluid. Bouncing while stretching can lead to injury.
- If you feel pain you have stretched too far; you want to feel tension, not pain.
- Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds before moving on to the next muscle. For areas with more tension you may need to hold for 60 seconds.
Active people should aim to stretch at least twice a week. Stretching after completing a resistance training workout can help cut down on soreness during muscle the muscle recovery period. Stretching before running or working out will loosen the muscles to help avoid injury during the activity. Think of it as a much needed time to unwind and relieve tension in the body instead of a task. Do your muscles a favor, stretch it out.