Safe Stretch Tips
Remember stretching can be done anywhere – you can have stretch breaks at your work from your computer. Take advantage of the morning and afternoon tea breaks doing neck stretches, neck rolls, shoulder stretches while filling up your water bottle before sitting back down at your computer. Your body will love you for it!
Here are a few tips to ensure you are stretching right, and safe:
- Before stretching – you must warm up the body. Stretching cold muscles you have greater chance of hurting yourself. Warm up with light walking, cycling or light jog at low intensity for 5-10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up. Note: Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before an intense activity like sprinting or track and field may actually decrease performance.
- Focus on major muscle groups. Focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work.
- Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further, making you less flexible and more prone to pain. So, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times.
- Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Pregnant ladies – do not overstretch. The hormone relaxin is released in your body 2 weeks after conception – in preparation for childbirth. As the name implies, relaxin relaxes the body’s muscles, joints, and ligaments. This is not the time to increase your stretching capabilities, as once you overstretch these connectives tissues; they are prone to staying overstretched. Keep it within normal range.
- Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi, for instance, may be a good way to stretch. And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a front kick in martial arts, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.
- Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week. If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.
Author: Monique Rana – Vitasoy Ambassador & Co-Owner of BodyTech Gym NZ.