However tempting it may be to rush off after a workout and skip the stretching, you must remember that it is almost as important as the workout itself. The fact that it won’t actually firm up your abs or strengthen your heart and no immediate benefits are seen, is why it is so easy to think it is not really necessary. However, in the long-run, it will make your muscles more flexible and enable you to reach your goals more effectively. It also has the added benefit of helping prevent minor injuries. Our Fitness Enhancement trainers make sure all of our clients are well stretched at the end of each session.
What happens when we stretch?
When we exercise, our muscles contract and shorten. By stretching, you counteract this action causing the muscles to go back to their relaxed state and lengthen again. Without stretching, you may get pulled muscles and cramps, and they may even shorten permanently. A tight muscle cannot function smoothly and efficiently. So if muscles contract and relax efficiently they will remain flexible, allowing them to move bones easily without putting too much strain on your joints. This can ward off arthritis in later years.
Improve our posture
Stretching can also improve your posture. By lengthening tight muscles it allows body parts to return to their natural position. In the ever-increasing world of technology, we are constantly putting ourselves in awkward positions (slumped over computers or playing video games). In these situations, stretching is very important for resuming your natural posture so you don’t end up with a hunched back. In addition, stretching increases blood supply to muscles and joints, which has the effect of delivering more oxygen. This reduces the possibility of cramps, which arise due to oxygen deprivation. It also removes waste products from the muscles such as carbon dioxide.
Importance of a warm-up
Warming up before a workout is equally important as warm muscles can contract and relax more easily, which allows us to perform at a higher level during the workout eg. 5 minutes of walking, gentle jogging or slow cycling. Even if you are late for a class and miss the warm-up, it is wise to do a little bit by yourself before throwing yourself into the full-blown workout.
Tips for Stretching
• Incorporate at least 5 minutes of stretching into your exercise routine and never skip it.
• Stretch all the muscle groups exerted in your workout.
• Never stretch cold muscles, ie only stretch after your workout or warm-up.
• Don’t bounce when stretching as you lose control of the movement and may over-stretch.
• Don’t try to balance when stretching as this will limit your movements. Hold onto a chair or wall-bar.
• Stop immediately if you feel any kind of pain.