Tuesday, October 7, 2008

But I have no time for... (Part 3 of 3)

On to the final portion of our three-part series, “But I have no time for…” This week’s focus is stretching. Even when we are on our best behavior with nutrition and exercise, it seems stretching is either left out of the program or not given enough time. Why? When there are so many benefits of stretching!

Stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion, and improves circulation. Not to mention it can also relieve stress, improve posture, and prevent injury. In my opinion, preventing injury is the biggest reason you’ll want to make stretching part of your routine. Two years ago, I pulled my right hamstring. Not only was it painful, but it took months of rehabilitation to get it back to normal. My chiropractor, Dr. Carmen Romano of Madison Medical and Sports Rehab (http://www.mysportsrehab.com ), was a great help in healing my hamstring. And, on a side note, I am proud to tell you that Dr. Romano will be contributing to this blog in future posts so that he can be as much of a help to you as he was for me.

It is important not only to take the time to stretch each major muscle group, but to also do it correctly. Improper stretching can cause more harm than no stretching at all. For example, bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. The proper stretching technique is to stretch to the point of tension, not pain, and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds (60 seconds on tighter areas).

I’ve been asked many times if it’s better to stretch before or after working out. While it is better to stretch AFTER (because your muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching), I highly suggest a brief warm-up followed by stretching the major muscle groups. Dr. Romano says, “Always warm up before stretching a cold muscle. You can do a light jog or jump rope.” I’ve found, especially in cooler weather, there is much less tension in my body when I do this before working out as opposed to jumping into the workout without a warm-up. Another benefit is that I am also more mentally ready to begin my routine.

So tell me, what is your biggest reason for skipping the stretches either before or after your routine? Is it lack of time, lack of knowledge? Let me and the “Body by Kelly” community help you out!