Posted on June 12, 2011


As published on LOVESTYLE.COM

Some of us swear by stretching … incorporate it diligently in our every workout.  Others bypass it all together … become forgetful or complacent as injury has never struck so why start now?

As for me?  I sit firmly somewhere in between.  I talk about stretching, I have great intentions to stretch … but all to often, I don’t practice what I preach until my physio gives me a good talking to over the root cause of my regular running injuries.

So from today … well, maybe tomorrow (!), I am determined to stretch more and in preparation, I’ve been doing a little reading up on the subject.

Here are the top rules to stretch by:

  • Warm Up and Cool Down

Stretching is important as a warm-up, before you train, because it increases blood flow to the muscles. But stretching during your cool-down may be even more important, particularly after running, as it helps to remove lactic acid from the muscle, which in turn reduces muscle soreness. Stretching after, when your muscles are warm will also promote flexibility and help you to relax.

  • Don’t Overstretch

While stretching can promote flexibility, stretching too far actually can damage the muscles—particularly if you’re recovering form an injury. A healthy muscle can elongate up to 1.6 times its length and you wouldn’t even want to be taking it that far. By overstretching, you create an automatic myotatic reflex that actually will cause the muscle to recoil to protect itself from tearing and injury. Also, don’t bounce while stretching. Holding your stretch in a static position works best.

  • Combine Stretching and Strengthening

A good time to do your stretching exercises is while resting between lifts during your strength training. And contrary to popular belief, strength training will not decrease your flexibility, as long as you do it properly and perform lifts through their full range of motion.

  • Use MICE rather than RICE

Health professionals frequently promote RICE as one way of treating an injury: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. But in many cases, MICE is actually better, replacing Rest with Move. This is because immobilising a muscle can lead to decreased blood flow and muscle atrophy. If you stretch properly while recovering from an injury, you can speed up recovery.

  • Get moving

Lack of exercise is actually a great cause of lack of flexibility. If you stay active aerobically and use stretching to maintain your flexibility, you will look and feel younger because of the way you move.

  • Look East

Yoga, Tai Chi and other ancient forms of body movement, incorporate much of what we simply call ‘stretching.’ Never underestimate its value to your well-being. If you do no other form of movement during the day, stretch every major muscle set of your body. Borrow a yoga book or do a quick google search to learn some new stretches that you can incorporate into your routine. Believe me, your body will thank you for it.

  • Don’t give up

It’s not a matter of touching your toes the first time you try. NEVER push your body beyond its stopping point. You’re trying to increase flexibility not create injuries. Remember that the stretch that seems impossible one week is suddenly possible the next. Your muscles will start responding in days and weeks, just be patient and you’ll see results in what is really a very brief period of time.

  • Breath, breath, breath

Stretching and breathing go together like laughter and happiness so remember to take deep breaths. Hold that breath and let your body feel the benefit of that breath. Pay particular attention to your breathing and it will help you in your overall fitness training and in down time!

So LOVESTYLE divas, next time you workout, curb a few minutes off your pre-workout ‘deciding what to wear’ time and your racing to the closest juice bar afterwards so you can spend a few more minutes stretching.  Regardless of your level of fitness, ability or chosen sport, you will reap the benefits … according to my physio anyway!

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