The importance of a Stretch.
I have greatly under estimated the power of the stretch. The years I have worked as a Personal Trainer, taught high impact aerobics classes, spin classes legs, bums and tums etc., I always made sure clients and participants stretched. But did I stretch? No I didn’t and now several years down the line I am paying the price.
My muscles became so tight and sore they could not be touched my flexibility has become severely restricted and some movements are downright painful.
I have no excuse as a fitpro I know the importance of a good stretch. I would stretch at the end of a class along with all the participants, but the amount of classes along with my other activities such as running meant that I should have been devoting at least and extra 30 mins a day to a stretch routine.
I know that many of you exercisers out there consider the stretch to be a waste of your valuable work out time, so what are the benefits of stretching?
Improved range of movement
By increasing range of movement we are increasing the distance our limbs can move before damage occurs. For example, the muscles and tendons in the hamstrings (muscles at the back of the leg) can be put under great strain when running or doing any exercise that involves high impact or kicking a ball. So the more supple and flexible those muscles are, the greater range of movement it will have so stride length will increase you will be able to move quicker and longer
As we age, our muscles gradually become shorter and tighter; joints become stiff reducing our overall flexibility. This restriction makes us more susceptible to muscle, tendon and joint injuries. Stretching is primarily responsible for increasing flexibility, and reduces these risks. Increased flexibility also allows you to exercise more easily.
Stretching has powerful stress-busting abilities. Stress causes our muscles to contract, becoming tense. This tension can have negative effects on just about every part of our body. Gentle stretching exercises relax tense muscles associated with stress. Also, since stretching is an exercise, it has the same endorphin-boosting effects, so improving our mood.
Alleviate lower back pain
Evidence suggests that at some point in our life we will all suffer with lower back pain for at least 24 hours . Stretching is an excellent way to alleviate lower back pain. Since many muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back muscles and hip flexors) contribute to your posture, stretching these muscles has the ability to greatly reduce or eliminate lower back pain.
Just by doing a few stretches every day can make life a little easier especially as we age.
Some of my Favourite stretches, hold each stretch for 10 - 30 secs
Lying down on your back, and bend your hip until you can feel a stretch behind your thigh (in the hamstring muscles). Use a towel to apply some more pressure and create a stronger stretch.
Lie on your back, and bend your knee to 90 degrees (i.e. pointing straight up). Place your ankle across your opposite knee and pull your knee towards your chest to feel a stretch in your bottom. You can also use a towel to assist you.
Lower Back Stretch
Lying flat on your back, cross one leg over the other by twisting your hips and spine. Keep your opposite arm outstretched. You can hold on to your knee to make the stretch stronger if you feel comfortable.
Pull your foot towards your bottom. If you are unsteady on your feet, make sure you hold on to something sturdy like a wall or a table. You will feel a stretch to the quadricep muscles at the front of your thigh.