Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Importance of Stretching

We've all thought the same thing at some point in time, "I didn't work out today so why do I need to stretch?".  Every personal trainer, coach, gym owner, fitness guru, and even parents, will tell you to stretch.  Most people I've encountered make an all-too-common mistake but never realize the mistake until it's too late.  That simple, often overlooked mistake, is stretching AFTER your workout.

Whether you have a daily exercise routine or not, stretching is always beneficial.  Let's discuss a few important reasons why.

1.) Stretching increases flexibility.
Having limited mobility, whether you're young or older, can negatively affect your daily routine.  Tasks as small as putting food on the top shelf of the pantry runs a risk of pulling a muscle in your back.  It only takes one, small twist in the wrong way to put you down for days.  By increasing flexibility, muscle soreness will decrease and recovery time can be shortened.

2.) Stretching helps prevent postural problems.
This is a big one for those that work in an office-type setting where you sit for most of your day.  Aches, pains, moans and groans don't have to be part of your day.  A few simple stretches in the morning can alleviate pain and improve posture.

3.) It helps prevent over-extension injuries.
Stretching lengthens the muscles and helps increase circulation in the human body.  Many injuries nowadays are caused from individuals pushing their muscles past their limits and causing tears.

4.) Stretching allows for an active lifestyle later in life.
If you're anything like me, you love playing with the kiddos.  They can be a handful and want you to do some things that might have been out of the question last year, but a good stretching routine can help keep you in the game.  Many people have mentioned how young they feel just by staying active, but they wouldn't have that energy level and be able to keep up with the young ones if it weren't for loose muscles.

So, what can you do to stretch out your muscles?  I've always been a fan of dynamic stretching for one main reason: it gets the blood pumping and preps you for any activity.  There are several different stretches you can do anywhere, anytime, that will give you the mobility you desire. (Click HERE for a list).

Before I go, I want to share one last thing I've recently implemented that's helped me during my firefighter training.  I've struggled with sleeping ever since I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and twice since then.  I've discovered that stretching before bed is VERY beneficial and helps you get a good night's sleep.  Fitness Magazine has a great article on this issue.

I hope you can benefit from this.  If you have anything to add, please feel free to let me know.  Happy Hump Day!