Stretching is an important part of a well rounded exercise routine. The purpose of exercise is to increase or maintain our fitness and increase our muscle strength. Flexibility is an important part of this. Stretching increases our flexibility and for the best results, should be done daily. Stretching keeps our muscles strong and and helps us to maintain the range of motion in our joints. Lack of stretching can cause lead to joint pain, a reduced range of motion of the muscles, and muscle damage. Stretching regularly can also help to maintain balance and reduce falls as we age.
A stretched muscle is a healthy muscle. A stretched muscle is longer and stronger. A stronger muscle can cope better with our demands.
When to Stretch
For the best results, stretching should be done daily. Stretching can be a workout by itself. It’s not at all necessary to do a cardio or weights workout before stretching. Stretching lengthens the muscles which prevents stiffness. Stretching does, however, take commitment. It should be done every day, but once the habit has been developed, I’ve found that it isn’t at all onerous. I find a session of stretching at the end of a workout, is a relaxing way to finish a session.
There are many people who like to stretch at the beginning of a workout. Many years ago it was thought to be a good idea to stretch before beginning exercise. These days it is thought that stretching before exercise without warming up can cause injury. When stretching before a workout begins, or without doing a workout, its best to do 5 or 10 minute warm up first, to prevent injury.
How to Stretch
The main muscles that should be stretched post workout are quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, biceps, triceps, shoulders, neck, and lower back. Stretching doesn’t have to be a cumbersome addition to a workout. Five minutes of stretching is beneficial and preferable to not stretching. When performing a stretch, it’s important to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Don’t bounce or pulse. You should feel the stretch, but you should not feel pain.
My Stretching Routine
My stretching over the past six months has been hit and miss, as have been my workouts generally. Some days they have been spot on and on other days they do leave a bit to be desired. When I was younger I placed huge importance to stretching. In those days I would probably stretch for an hour a day, as I did multiple aerobics classes and generally while assisting people with programs in the gym. I was very flexible back then. I can’t help thinking that if I had kept that focus on flexibility, over the past few years, my body might be ageing better than it is, and maybe I would be less injury prone than I have been recently.
At the moment, I’m doing 10 minutes of stretching at the end of every workout and then on Fridays , I spend 45 minutes stretching. I’m sure that stretching every day, including one long session each week, will increase my flexibility and counteract some of the age related problems, I’m now noticing in relation to my muscles.
I follow trainer, Michelle Bridges’, stretch routine at the end of every workout in the gym. They are basic stretches, but they leave me feeling strong but relaxed and ready to face the day. You can check out these stretches in the video below. They are also my preferred stretches. As a write this post, I’m reminded that I really should stretch after a long walk. In the past I always did stretch at the end of a walk or bike ride, but I’ve become quite slack about that also. So I’m committing here to stretch at the end of EVERY workout, whether it be in the gym, walking or cycling.
As I mentioned, on Fridays, I like to do a Body Balance class instead of weights or cardio in the gym. I find this is a really great way to finish off the week. For me, it feels like a reward for getting out of bed early and into the gym, every week day morning. Body Balance is a Les Mills franchised class and is a mix of tai chi, yoga and pilates. You would think 45 minutes of stretching would be very gentle and relaxing. Nothing could be further from the truth for Body Balance. If the stretches are done correctly, by the end of the class, your muscles will feel like they have had quite a tough workout. At the same time they feel strong but relaxed.
The following workout is an official Les Mills Body Balance class, which I’m using at the moment.
There are many stretches that can be done, so it’s quite easy to mix them up. I tend to have my favourites and stick with them, but it is good to mix it up a bit. How you stretch, really does depend on the type of exercise you are doing. For example, cycling really works the quadriceps, due to the pedalling motion, so after a bike ride, I like to hold my quad stretches for longer. The chart below shows a simple stretch for each of the muscle groups that should be stretched in every session.
This post up in linked to Natalie’s Wellnessd Linkup for the prompt ‘Balance’.
*Please remember, if you are beginning an exercise program, it’s important to consult doctor first. If you feel any pain while stretching, you should stop the stretch and consult your doctor.
@ 2020 copyright. All rights reserved nextphaseinfitness.com.au