Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Time is a precious commodity in this busy modern day life. In my opinion 24 hours in a day is just not enough so I am all up for a good time hack. When it comes to your health and fitness it can be handy to have a few tricks up your sleeve when life get’s busy. Maybe you swap out one of your usual sessions for a quick HITT blast, exercise in your lunch hour, batch cook healthy meals or even have it delivered by a meal prep company. There’s lots of great ways to save a little time so that you can remain on track under pressure, BUT as tempting as it is, skipping your stretches is not one of them. In the long run this will cost you.
If your attending UpFit classes your warm up and cool down stretches are all organised for you but if your exercising at home or taking advantage of the warmer weather with runs and cycling it's tempting to cut corners and save time by going straight in to the main activity and taking a swift exit to the shower.
Just by stretching for a few minutes before after each session, you’ll see and feel actual benefits to your workouts and daily life.
So here’s a little reminder of why not to overlook your pre and post workout stretches, why it’s so important and a guide to which types of stretch to do.
1) STRETCH TO MAKE YOUR WORKOUT EASIER
Make life a little easier for yourself and get your muscles and your energy system that support them ready for the activity at hand.
Your car runs better with a warm engine and your body is the same. If you slammed your car into 5th gear and floored the gas you'd expect a stall.
Get your heart rate up, oxygen and nutrients (fuel) flowing in your bloodstream and your joints lubricated before the main show.
A good dynamic warm up will increase the range of motion at the joints. You'll move better, more efficiently and place less stress on your body. Your workout will feel easier too!
(See dynamic stretching below)
2) ENSURE FUTURE MOBILITY:
Mobility refers to the ability to perform movements freely without putting stress on the body. Movements like your next workout or just daily tasks. Mobility might not be much of a concern for anyone under the ages of 25. Your body recovers quickly and it’s still benefiting from natural childhood flexibility.
As the years pass however, movements such as running, squats and lunges can become uncomfortable and difficult. As the years pass further the difficultly can progress to walking, standing up from a chair and climbing the stairs.
3) STOP MUSCLE TIGHTNESS LEADING TO INJURY:
We’ve all suffered from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) after a tough workout. The pain is caused by inflammation induced by the bodies healing process. When muscle fibres heal they don’t always heal as linear as they once were and areas of tightness or knots can form. Tightness and knots can lead to muscles not working as they should. What was a little tightness can quickly turn into a muscle tear, ligament or tendon damage and serious complications. Make sure to hold your static stretches after your workout. It will elongate and soften the muscle fibres, which will help re-align them.
(See static stretching below)
4) IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE
An often overlooked area of fitness, balance helps us to perform optimally in exercise. Stretching regularly helps to stop you from falling over! By increasing the range of motion in your joints, it has been clinically demonstrated to help improve our ability to balance! Better for your workouts now and another attack on the effects of old age.
WHAT TYPES OF STRETCHING SHOULD I DO?
1) DYNAMIC STRETCHING
Dynamic stretching simply means 'stretching whilst moving'. You'll notice during UpFit warm ups we raise the heart rate, get the muscles warm and perform moving stretches not holding anything for more than a few seconds but repeating it several times. This can also be referred to as mobilisation.
The stretches shouldn’t be held for more than 3-10 seconds each. Some example exercises are front-to-back leg swings, knee raises, hamstring curls, arm reaches, torso twists, and walking lunges. You get the picture - stretch but don't stop moving, you want to keep those muscles warm and your heart rate up. Think about which muscles and motions you are going to use in your workout. Start small and build the range of motion/intensity to reach that of your main activity.
2) STATIC STRETCHING
These are the stretches to be performed after your workout, just like the ones at the end of every UpFit Class. They need to be held for 15 seconds (or more).
They may feel slightly uncomfortable, which is perfect, so long as they don’t feel painful.
Avoid bouncing whilst holding a static stretch, as it’s not meant to be forced; slowly and over time lengthen and relax the muscle. Do not hold your breath whilst stretching, you should be able to breathe normally and have a conversation during your static cool down stretches. If you can't your stretch is too intense.
Some examples of static stretching are reaching to the floor with straight legs for a hamstring stretch, tilting your ear towards the shoulder to stretch the neck and squeezing your elbows behind your back to stretch the muscles of the chest.
Think about which muscles you have used in your workout and stretch correspondingly. If you need help deciding which muscles to stretch or how, you can message me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So stretch to enjoy a better workout today. A more supple, painless tomorrow and the unrestricted use of your limbs in 50 years time!
Learn about UpFit classes including the stretch class 'Veraflow' HERE.