Stretching is near and dear to my heart, as you can see I am teaching my daughter at an early age how important stretching is. Everyone (myself included) wants to do the most reps, or lift the heaviest, or run the fastest… but without functional and pain free movement those reps, lifts and runs are compromised. Stretching is normally overlooked and just tossed into the beginning or end of a work out, not taking into account the healing powers it provides. Issues like loss of range of movement and muscle imbalances can be resolved over time by simply stretching. I, personally, have overcome some debilitating injuries by stretching.
After my C-section my core was wrecked, I went into lifting heavy weights too early (way before I was ready) and hurt my back – pulling a major low back muscle- a super dumb and immature move on my part. I was unable to walk for 2 weeks and was in excruciating pain for about 3 weeks. Money problems at the time kept me from seeing a Doctor so I WebMD’d and Googled everything I could think of to find a solution. Ice, rest and stretching were my only options. After months of slow progress I was finally able to fully exercise again. To give you some perspective it took almost a year for me to completely recover from my back injury and C-section, but I managed my pain and made a full recovery by simply stretching daily and making small progress in my exercising.
About 4 months ago I broke my Fibula, a nice snap in half while at derby practice. I started stretching as soon as I could. Even in my cast I would practice rolling my ankle, pointing my toe, and making any movement I could that was relatively pain free. Once my cast was off, 4 weeks later, I was cleared for exercise, 2 months later I was cleared to come back to derby. My doctor released me to my own rehab, he was shocked at the progress I had made on my own. I am telling you this because all I did was stretch. I made sure to stretch out my ankle every day, just like I stretched out my back every day. I knew that keeping my range of movement was key to making a quick recovery. Now, my friends will tell you I am crazy, I do push myself more than most people so I do not expect everyone to begin rehabilitating while in a cast and healing, but I wanted to share my stories so you understand the importance and benefits of stretching.
There are different kinds of stretching, thousands of methods and even more variations. My goal of this is not to overwhelm you but to inform you. If you have a muscle you need stretched I promise you there is a move out there just for you. A Simple YouTube or Google search will bring tons of options. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Stretching should not hurt. It might be uncomfortable and you should feel a “tug” “pull” or “stretch” (duh) but never a shooting or sharp pain. You may relate that pulling sensation to pain but if you feel sharp pain you need to stop and reevaluate your stretching.
Dynamic stretching warms up your muscles and gets them ready for work. Doing prisoner squats or push-ups can be effective Dynamic stretching to prepare muscles for your work out. Stretching before a work out should be done to prep your muscles for the work you are about to put them through.
Static stretching, or even Isolated Active stretching, is great for after a workout. To fully stretch out the muscles you just worked. This also helps to correct any muscle imbalances you may have.
Most everyone can benefit from Static stretching. This is the good old “grab and hold for 30 seconds” stretching we are all accustomed to. It takes your body 30 seconds to fully relax a muscle, so holding for a full 30 seconds is required to get the benefit. When your tight muscle finally relaxes your muscle imbalances begin to resolve, leaving you more mobile and balanced. Setting a goal of spending 10-20 minutes stretching 3 to 4 times a week is a great idea for everyone. Think about it, when was the last time you bent over to the front and touched yo toes? Again, it does not have to be overwhelming or crazy. A simple routine of toe touches, calf stretches, hip flexor and glute stretches with chest and shoulder stretching will get you feeling and moving better.
**(Ladies, wearing heels does make your legs look great BUT it is at the expense of your legs wellbeing. I am not saying to stop wearing heels, you totally should but that is your call to make, but if you choose to wear them PLEASE stretch your calves out afterward. Keeping your calves in a flexed state for hours or all day is not healthy, and then to not give them some love after putting them through that is just cruel. Stretch your damn calves and save yourself a lot of pain later on down the line. )**
You may be saying “well, that is just great Aslyn, but what the heck are glute stretches? And how to I stretch my chest?” Don’t worry, like always I have you covered. Below are some great static stretches for you to try at home:
Hip Flexor Stretch:
(remember to do your Glute Bridges weekly to activate your Glutes!)
I hope this helps get you stretching! As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have at Aslyn711@gmail.com.
Thanks so much and have a great week!!