Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Myths Debunked - Stretch 'em like a band of taffy!

We have all heard the many benefits if daily exercise so we tend to make sure that we squeeze in a workout, even if it's a quick one during our lunch hour.

However, what we don't account for is time spent stretching. It is so easy to bolt to the treadmill and run, or get a few quick sets in on our favorite weight machines. In fact, many believe stretching isn't important which can be a very detrimental misconception.

So why is stretching so important?

First and foremost...Injury Prevention! Stretching your muscles makes them more resistant to the stress you are about to place them under. After properly stretching your muscles, you will enjoy an increased range of motion and a decreased rigidity in your muscles.

In addition to injury prevention, stretching helps reduce tension, increase coordination and improve balance.

Unfortunately, many are misinformed about when to stretch. Most believe stretching should occur right when you get to the gym, and before you begin any exercise! That can be an injury inducing misconception. Think of your muscles as taffy. When you stretch cold taffy, it breaks. However, when you stretch warm taffy it is more pliable and receptive to the harsh motion and stress you are placing on it.

So when should you stretch? First, you should warm up with a brisk walk or some other light cardio to raise your body temperature - creating warm taffy. Once your body temperature has risen and your muscles are ready to be stretched, it is important to do some sport specific exercises that will prepare your body for the strenuous workout ahead. For example, if you will be running, be sure to do stretches that target the hip flexors, calves, IT bands and shins.

Now, you have finished your workout routine and are about to head home...STOP! Don't forget to stretch after your workout as well. Stretching after will prevent soreness the following day and aide in injury prevention. Light stretching at the end will also help bring your body back to a resting state.

I realize not everyone has time to embark on an extended stretching routine. Heck, most of us are lucky if we manage to get a daily workout in our schedule. But taking a few extra moments to warm up your muscles, and stretch after a workout, will help you steer clear of injury and get the most out of your fitness routine.

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