Most athletes are already well versed with the importance of being adequately warmed up prior to workouts and competition. Unfortunately, “warming up” is sometimes confused with the “stretching” exercises you might have learned a long time ago.
Warming up is simply increasing the blood flow to your muscles slowly and gradually, as well as gradually ramping up your heart rate, in anticipation of more strenuous exercise. True stretching, on the other hand, has a different role to play within your training program.
First of all, it’s worth noting that stretching is much more appropriate as an activity to be performed after a strenuous exercise, rather than before. Trying to stretch muscles that are not warmed up could actually result in small muscle tears that could set back your overall training.
Instead, get in the habit of stretching after you’ve already performed the difficult and dynamic parts of your work. By doing so, you’ll be stretching muscles that are already warm, supple and have adequate blood flow.
Stretching benefits your muscles by opening up the blood vessels and stimulating blood flow, so that your muscles can flush themselves of the post exercise metabolic wastes.
Including an appropriate stretching routine after long workouts can actually speed recovery and help you be better prepared for your next workout. Stretching can also help you to identify muscular imbalances that may eventually lead to (or perhaps have already caused) injuries.
For example, if you find that you are able to stretch noticeably further on one side of your body as compared to the other, then that imbalance might be putting different stresses on each side of the body, the cumulative effect of which could be an injury somewhere down the road.
A “stretching” trend that’s becoming more widely understood and appreciated is that of mobility work. “Stretching” usually refers to work that’s done on just the muscle tissue, but “mobility” exercises can address other structures that affect your athletic performance.
For example, your muscles might be relatively flexible, but if the muscle/joint interface is tight and restricted, then your muscles won’t have the opportunity to take full advantage of that muscle flexibility
Because it can be difficult to effectively target joint interfaces and other areas that can benefit from mobility work, it’s important to seek the assistance of a qualified sports therapy professional at the outset.
An expert sports trainer can show you how to stretch and mobilize all of your tissues, and even help you learn how to perform these exercises at home. There are certain pieces of relatively inexpensive equipment that you can use to help you on your path for flexibility and mobility, including the foam roller as well as high strength elastic stretching bands.
It might seem like an efficient use of your valuable training time to devote 10, 20 or even 30 minutes at the end of your workout time to stretching and mobility exercises, but think about how valuable it can be if it prevents you from getting an injury that sidelines you for weeks or even months.
Athletes, parents, coaches, trainers or therapists if you have a question or a concern regarding your stretching program or the program of your athletes or patients please ask below. Just submit your question…..