We all know what it feels like when we've been sitting in one position too long. Or maybe you can feel it in your own shoulders as I describe how tight my neck feels right now from straining over a laptop. Mental tension exhibits itself in physical ways, too. Our shoulders rise up and our muscles feel tight and strained. This makes our muscles much easier to pull and injure. Stretching our tight muscles can help ease the tension.
Here are more reasons to include stretches into your routine. Some of the benefits of stretching include:
*keeping muscles flexible, strong and healthy
*preparing your body for more vigorous activity
*helping lengthen and shape muscles
*giving you a greater range of motion, and,
one of my favourite reasons -
*increasing blood flow to all parts of your body - including the brian!!!
There are different kinds of stretching - Dynamic, PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and Static. Let me explain a little of the differences.
Dynamic stretching is the kind that you would use before strenuous exercise or athletic performance. The stretches include moving in a full range of motion. Examples of this would be rotating the shoulders before swimming laps, or knee hugs before running. This helps to warm the body up and raise your body temperature to prepare your muscles for the exertion to come because cold muscles can tear and injure more easily.
Another, kind of stretching is called PNF - initially used to treat neuromuscular conditions like multiple sclerosis. But this method is becoming mainstream. The muscles are pushed to their limits and in doing so triggers a reflex that calms the muscle to prevent injury. As one practitioner, Ashley Black, explains that PNF "causes the brain to go ‘I don’t want that muscle to tear’ and sends a message to let the muscle relax a little more than it would normally".
And then there is static stretching that should take place after a workout or when you are warm. This is where you will stretch and hold a position and allow your muscles to relax into that it. This helps with fine-muscles coordination that helps us have a better range of motion and better balance. When it comes to exercise that means lower lunges and higher jumps = a better workout!
Stretching changes your body's architecture = longer fibres. And this is why body shape and muscle definition can be improved by taking the time to stretch after exercise. In Pilates, it is a valued part of the routine, and, it certainly recommended after a gym workout. But if you would like to just warm up enough to do the stretching alone then you simply need to do 5-10 minutes of gently moving first; perhaps a quick walk.
If you have tight shoulders or a stiff back, these can be signs of stress and tension. Stretching can help relieve that tension and get your blood flowing again. When blood is flowing, well, that means its also flowing to your brain and this will help you to think better; a great mid-day pick me up!
But you know the best thing about stretching... it feels so good!
To help you give it a go, I have created a Stretch Chart you can download and print off to help you get started.
Click on the link below