Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick and Dirty of Stretching

You pedal through a vigorous terrain on the bike as the instructor pushes on. You bear down and work through your personal training session. You even add a few minutes on the rowing machine for good measure. With a smile of satisfaction, there is nothing left to do but hit the showers and go on with your day.

Not so fast! Did you think about those muscles that pulled you through the workout you just completed? Stretching is so often something people neglect to do at the end of a training session because they are too tired or in a rush to their next appointment. Consider the following as an explanation of why stretching matters and how to do it correctly.

The benefits of stretching are plentiful. However, did you ever think what would happen if you did not stretch? By not stretching, your joints lose range of motion and mobility, your posture is compromised, and you can experience decreased circulation to your muscles and joints. In addition, you can experience increased muscle tension, decreased muscular coordination, and an increase in injuries.

Here are the basic stretching essentials you should consider when you are hitting the mat to relax and lengthen those tired muscles.
Target major muscle groups. When you are stretching, focus on your neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, thighs, and calves. In addition, always stretch the muscles that you use in your everyday routine at work or play. For example, if you sit all day at work make sure you stretch those muscles that are shortened and under used. The calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, chest and abdominal muscles become weak and tight when sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can create tiny tears in your muscles and leave vulnerable to injury. The tiny tears also cause the muscle to tighten further, leaving you less flexible than before.

Take your time. It takes time to stretch and lengthen your muscles correctly. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds before switching to the other side.

Stretch until you feel tension but not pain. When you are stretching your muscles, you will feel a slight tension but this should not cause pain. If you do experience pain, it is likely you have gone too far into the stretch and need to ease up just a bit.

Breathe! It is important to breathe and try to relax while you are stretching. By taking deep breaths, it allows you to take your stretch deeper.

You may wonder how often you should stretch. This is entirely up to you but as a general guideline, you should stretch every time you exercise. If you experience tightness in certain areas, stretch that area more often. Stretching is an activity that can be performed daily with no equipment needed. It will not be long before you start seeing results!

Written by,
Jamey Peters
Seattle Athletic Club
Personal Fitness Trainer

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