Stretching is something that everyone should be doing in some form, no matter what their age, physical activity or fitness level. As we get older, our joints become less flexible over time. To see this, all you need to do is have a look at children and watch how they move, squat and stretch so effortlessly whilst moving. Unless we do something to help maintain this flexibility, we are going to lose it over time.
We all remember back at school when we had to spend 5 minutes doing these static stretches before taking part in a probably painful and embarrassing activity. Well, these aren’t the stretches I mean. The most recent research out there, is that static stretching before an activity has no benefits. This is the reason why my clients all have a dynamic stretching and mobility programme to help them get warmed up. However, once we’ve finished a workout, or during another part of our day, it is important to spend a bit of time having a good stretch. Here are the reasons why:
-Decreases stress. Concentrating on your breathing and relieving the body of any tension it is holding can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
-Reduces stiffness and may help reduce pain. When you’ve been working out, your muscles can become quite tight. Tightness that hasn’t been released over time can lead to pain.
– Has been shown to improve overall health. Regular stretching can help to reduce blood pressure, and your heart and breathing rate.
– Enhances the range of motion in your joints.
– Improves your muscular function. If you have poor posture, constantly repeating movement patterns or spend a lot of the day seated, the muscles in your body can become tight. This means they become less strong and supple. Regular stretching helps improve the overall function of the body.
– Reduces the risk of injury due to your muscles not being as tight.
Enhances your performance as you are able to perform movement patterns better.
– Improves your blood flow and circulation. Regular stretching has been shown to improve blood flow, meaning that there is a better transport of oxygen and nutrient rich blood around the body.
– Can help to minimise any wear and tear on the joints. If muscles have become tight and tense over a long period of time, the opposing muscles will become weakened. This results in unnecessary wear and tear within the body. Regular stretching will help to make sure the muscles on either side of joint maintain an equal degree of pull, so the body can move freely.
If you’re working with me, you will have your own stretching plan which fits in at the end of the workouts. This is when I recommend adding it in, as you’re more likely to do it then, rather than later in the day, when it is difficult to make the time. Your body is also already warm and prepared to carry out the stretches.
So, now that we have covered stretching, let’s have a look at foam rolling and see if this is really something we should be incorporating into our routine! (hint, the answer is yes!)
Firstly what is a foam roller? So, you know that random tube thing that you see lying around the gym or people’s homes? It can either be smooth or have little lumps and bumps in it. You may see people lying on it and wonder what they are doing.
They are designed to help as a form of self-myofasical release or self-massage. In basic terms you are giving yourself a sports massage. When used in the right way, it has all the same benefits as stretching and has great potential to remove any pain you may have building up in your muscles.
Sounds great, so lets get started! Firstly I am going to warn you… it’s not comfortable – like, at all. However, I promise you that you will feel better for doing it and it will help your recovery. Combined with stretching, it is one of the tools that can help make sure you are feeling awesome.
Check out my video on how to foam roll! To get you started…. link here…