Compiled by Linda Craigg, NMT, LMT*
WHAT STRETCHING IS
…the body’s link between your sedentary life & active life.
1. Keeps muscles supple, prepares you for movement, increases flexibility and facilitates a healthy transition from inactivity to exercise.
2. Injury prevention – especially for active sports such as running, which can create tightness & inflexibility. Reduce affects of joint compression caused by high impact sports and removes toxins (including lactic acid) from body.
3. Tool to increase body awareness – determine tight areas (right hamstring, left hip, etc.); target areas that need more focus.
4. Develop stretch routine to restore balance to your body; should be customized to individual muscular structure, flexibility & tension. NOT one size fits all!
5. Goal = reduce muscular tension + promote ease of movement. Stretching promotes extension in the body to offset the flexion prevalent in modern life.
KEY TO SUCCESS = REGULARITY, PATIENCE & RELAXATION
WHAT STRETCHING IS NOT…
1. Competition between others or yourself (your flexibility varies daily)
2. Stressful or rushed
4. Time to hold your breath or hyperventilate (breathe naturally)
DON’T BOUNCE + DON’T HOLD BREATH + DON’T COMPETECARDINAL RULE: IF A STRETCH CAUSES PAIN, STOP IMMEDIATELY!
WHEN TO STRETCH... ANYTIME!! In the morning when you wake up; at work to release nervous tension; after extended sitting or standing; when you feel stiff; before & after exercise; during travel; at odd times during the day (leisure time); before bed
HOW TO STRETCH
- Stretch slowly and evenly – No Bouncing!
- Gently pull muscle to end zone; hold 15 second; repeat 3 times on each side; stretch bilaterally (work right and left sides)
- Overstretching is worse than no stretching; contracts and tears muscles, resulting in injury and/or decreased flexibility
- Know your limits; stretching is not a competition or contest; individual needs are different and require specific stretches
- Breathe during stretch to help body take in oxygen and allow muscles to release
- Stretch before and after activity (Warm ups/Cool downs)
- Be consistent – try to stretch every day
- Feel younger, enhance awareness and have fun!
METHODS OF STRETCHING:
Not only are there numerous ways to stretch an individual muscle, but there are several techniques to stretch as well. Finding a successful stretching program is like finding a successful diet – and what works for your running partner may not work for you. For stretching the hip flexors, one runner may prefer a standing stretch, another may prefer a seated stretch and yet a third may get the most benefit from a recumbent stretch. Always warm up before stretching. Some of the primary types of stretches are:
STATIC – slow movements; gentle pulling; hold 10 - 15 seconds; repeat 3 – 5 times per side, alternate left & right
BALLISTIC - Old school (bouncing); worse than not stretching at all
PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) – specific and involving contraction (resistance) alternating with lengthening stretch; usually done with trainer or therapist
PARTNERS STRETCHING - uses leverage to attain a deeper stretch; fun variation
THAI MASSAGE – traditional bodywork in Thailand, integrating yoga techniques, deep leverage stretching and acupressure.
TOOLS & TIPS:
- Hydration – plenty of WATER supplemented by sports drinks (for electrolytes)Stretch books/charts/guides; Check out internet sites with illustrated stretches for general lifestyle and running
- Cross-training – especially swimming, pilates, yoga (all low impact)
- Theraband, yoga strap or wide belt
- TheraCane, tennis balls and/or massage tools
- Hydrotherapy – ice packs (acute pain) & moist heat (chronic pain) Topicals such as Biofreeze (cold therapy gel for specific muscles) + Epsom salts (soak feet or add to bath)
- Therapy as needed, including physical therapy, chiropractic/applied kinesiology, sports/therapeutic massage & personal trainers (trained in sports & exercise physiology)
- Inversion tables for traction/extension of spine
*Reference: Stretching, 20th Anniversary *Revised Edition by Bob Anderson, Illustrated by Jean Anderson, Copyright 2000, Shelter Publications, 223 p. (also available as DVD)