Health & Fitness: Flexibility Training - What it is and Why It's Not Just for Athletes
- Make sure you are stretching correctly. While slow and controlled stretches can help you, fast and forced stretches are just bad, and can actually tear muscles so be aware of your technique.
- Don't see stretching as a warm up. This makes sense. You are stretching so that you don't dive into a physical activity and hurt your muscles, correct? So if you don't want to work out with cold muscles, why would you want to stretch cold muscles? Consider doing some warm up activity BEFORE you stretch. My suggestion, walking, jogging, or light biking for 6-10 minutes should get your muscles warmed up, the blood flowing and prepare you to ease into some stretching.
- Along with rule 1, don't force stretches and don't continue to stretch when there is pain. You should expect to feel some tension, possibly even sweat if you are in a good stretching session but definitely don't continue to hold a stretch if you are experiencing intense pain. Again, listen to your body.
- Aim to hold your controlled stretch for 30 seconds each, repeating two to three times.
- Take a Yoga, or Pilates class. These classes are found at numerous fitness centers and if you'd rather stay at home, there are numerous videos. If you are hesitant, don't be scared. There are plenty of beginner Yoga and Pilates classes. The beauty of being in a live class is that you have a certified and educated instructor who can make sure you have the correct form and technique as well as give you tips. So if you are serious about getting some flexibility training in, this is my MUST tip. Also, the mood and ambiance of these classes really helps create an environment worthy of getting your stretch on.
- Consider sport specific stretching. Know what activity you are preparing to do and know what muscles you are using. This is why I can't stress enough how important it is to be in tune with your body and all its parts. Again, back to the car analogy, a mechanic has to know what makes the wheels turn, and what gives power to make the engine run. In the same way, you are the owner, operator and mechanic of your body, so you should know what parts it's using and how they are "running" when you are participating in an activity in order to achieve maximum efficiency AND protection while you're performing.
- Finally, understand the importance of flexibility and KEEP WITH IT. As we age, our tendons and ligaments lose their flexibility, making it hard to do even ever day tasks such as reaching into the backseat to get something ,or bending down to pick up something you dropped. Daily stretching helps keep your ROM (range of motion) in your joints. So, understand how important it is to take even 10-15 minutes a day and stretch. You will probably find like most people, that this is not only good for your body, but your mind.