This really doesn’t affect me much since I’m just working on freelance work and can do that at anytime, but the fact that it’s the weekend still holds some excitement for some reason.
I’ll be doing some speed work in a 5-mile run outside. I’m holding off on using the treadmill until I absolutely have to because pretty soon I’ll have the choice between the treadmill and below 30-degree weather. Since I don’t particularly enjoy the burning sensation that comes with breathing heavily in the frigid air, I’m going to be spending some quality time with the treadmill this winter.
Then again, I did get some fun new workout clothes for the coldness. It’s exciting for me at least. Hopefully the new threads (I’m so cool, I know) will keep me running outside longer. We’ll just see how much of a wimp I am this year.
NOW, to the point of the post.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the magic of stretching. I knew the basics of why it’s important but wanted to learn more about why and what it does exactly.
Enter my brother-in-law’s brain.
In Monday’s post I talked about how John helped me improve my running schedule to better train for my upcoming marathon. I talked to him again recently to pull from his extensive knowledge of all things athletic, asking the details on stretching, such as when and how to do it.
To start off let me just say how people need to realize that stretching is an integral part of every safe workout routine. Before and after every workout, you need to be stretching to prevent injury. Some people, like me, definitely notice when they don’t stretch enough and easily get injured because of it. Others, like Matt, rarely stretch and always seem fine. No matter which type you are, stretching—both dynamic and static—can be the difference between a healthy body and an injured one.
- Dynamic Stretching – do PRIOR to exercise
What it is:
Dynamic stretches warm and loosen your muscles in preparation for exercise. This is done through repeated motions that don’t force muscles to stretch past their range of motion. When you think about it, it’s kind of like the high intensity version of stretching because you’re staying active the whole time. The reason you keep moving is to warm up cold, tight muscles before you get onto the real workout/activity.
What I’ve learned (the hard way, might I add) is that you should not hold your stretches when your muscles are cold—that’s static stretching. (I’ve pulled both hamstrings in the past, trying to do static stretching with cold muscles. I was used to stretching pretty far, and when I tried it with cold muscles, I went just as far and ended up pulling my hamstring. I did this on 2 difference occasions. You could say I learned my lesson by now…)
How it works:
With the light activity of dynamic stretching, you are using micro-muscles (aka connective muscles) that feed into larger muscles. By warming up smaller muscles, you can release more on the big ones. When the small muscles aren’t warmed up, they can get strained/injured/pulled/torn—basically, they’re not ready for the work you’re doing with them.
Warm muscles especially help when you take a wrong step while running, for example, and have to adjust. That adjustment goes all the way up your legs, affecting several different muscles. Plus, the repetitive manner in which you do the stretches not only warms your muscles but builds your muscles up over time as well.
With different types of dynamic stretching, you can warm up different muscle groups to prepare for the high stress activity you’re about to do. Here are some links to videos that demonstrate various dynamic stretches:
- Static – do AFTER a workout
What it is:
Everybody loves the way it feels to stretch out. With the static type, you are holding an extended muscle to increase flexibility. What people may not realize is that static stretching is both preventative and diagnostic. It prevents future injury, but it’s also a helpful gauge to tell if you’re already injured. You can feel what part of your body hurts, giving you a good start to learn how to stretch better in the future.
How it works:
Static stretching is good for an overall big stretch. As you workout, muscles tighten and shorten, creating the need to stretch them back out. Generally, you should hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds. While some people are naturally looser, others (like mwa) NEED to stretch, or they have problems.
(When I was training for my half marathon, the outside of my left knee began to hurt so bad that I couldn’t even walk normal after long training runs. After talking to an athletic trainer, I realized it was my IT band. I hadn’t been stretching it well if at all. Stretching has always been part of my workout routines, but I haven’t always been aware of what muscles I was stretching—I just did what I was familiar with. Once I learned some good stretches for my IT band, I slowly felt better and better. Now when I run, I don’t issues with my IT band. If it’s ever sore, I just take more time to stretch it , and that usually does the trick.)
I’ve linked to some websites that have some good examples of static stretches for various muscles. Check ‘em out!
Another action worth noting is…
- Range of motion exercises
It’s basically the love child of active recovery and stretching. When you’re sore, you may not want to move because it hurts, but you need to break up scar tissue, stop swelling, and get blood rushing through to heal.
Range of motion exercises activate your muscles by lightly moving joints in different directions. An example would be rotating your ankles or leaning a few different ways when your back feels stiff. People actually do these exercises all the time without even realizing it.
The quick and light motion is most beneficial immediately after a workout as well as 3-5 hours following. Like static stretching, it has a diagnostic feature, allowing you to feel if you’re tight in an area. It helps loosen you up and get a jump start on the healing process.
Of Possible Interest:
Do you stretch on a regular basis?
I always static stretch after a workout, but I definitely need to work on incorporating dynamic stretching and warming up.
What’s one of your favorite stretches?
I really like the seated IT Band stretch that I talked about in this post. My hips tend to be pretty tight from running, so it feels pretty wonderful. Plus, I get to do it while being lazy on the couch.