As I progress in my Personal Training course, I had some revelations about Stretching. Of the four components of fitness, Flexibility is the most overlooked and under-worked (the other three components are Stabilization, Cardiovascular, and Strength). Most people think to be flexible in your fitness routine, you should be ready for obstacles and scheduling conflicts that come up. Not many think of stretching or improving your range of motion.
I’m not a fan of yoga. I tried it for a full month this past February, doing all types of yoga at multiple yoga studios. I don’t like it. But it doesn’t mean I don’t understand the importance yoga can have for our strength and health. Maybe not all yoga all the time, but it is essentially a part of flexibility and stretching.
Flexibility can be developed no matter how poor of a level of flexibility you are at right now. It won’t happen overnight, but neither does strength and cardiovascular endurance. What I found interesting are all the benefits to stretching that we don’t think of. We might be aware that stretching helps prevent injury during exercise. And some of us might realize it helps relieve some pains in the back and menstrual pains in women. And those who practice yoga regularly will recognize that stretching reduces stress and helps relaxation. But it also increases your workout overall with body alignment, muscular balance, neuromuscular coordination, efficiency in physical work, improve circulation and even improve the transport of nutrients throughout your body, giving you actually more energy for working out when you stretch out beforehand.
The popular yoga moves are basically what is known by trainers as “Static Stretches”. These are stretches that hold a body in a stationary position. It stabilizes the muscle and connective tissue at their greatest length. Your popular Cat/Cow, Child’s Pose, Pigeon pose, Butterfly or Cobbler’s Pose, Cobra, and Hero’s Pose are typical static stretches.
Dynamic stretches are slow and rhythmic, but controlled movements, rather than stationary. When we warm-up on a dowel rod, we are usually doing some great dynamic stretches. When we mimic or go over movements in a WOD, these too, are considered dynamic stretches.
Ballistic stretches are not typically practiced by general populations doing generic workouts or training. These are uncontrolled motions, including bouncing and jerking, but there’s a greater risk of injury. However, if training for a specific sport or event, it can be appropriate for some athletes. I remember i used to do ballistic stretches before swim meets. Crazy arm swings, bouncing up and down, fast and wild leg rotations. But I don’t think these movements are going to help me gain a PR or master the pull-up.
As we enter Fall and cooler weather, more rain, and daylight savings time ending, Chris and I are having to get a little more flexible with our fitness routine. We may not be able to hit the park everyday. Doing burpees in our apartment isn’t an option for us (because despite everyone around us being rude, loud, obnoxious, and well, BEAVERTON, we want to be considerate, nice neighbors). So I have decided we need to be more flexible and we need more Flexibility. This month’s focus schedule has quite a few strength and stability movements like squats, planks, and presses, but I also have decided to focus on flexibility as well. I’m also focusing on warm-up activities, as I’ve learned quite a bit about the cardiovascular and physiological benefits to doing a proper warm up (even before you stretch). We’re going to be doing more running, jumping, and ladder drills this month to keep us warm and toasty while it’s getting cooler and darker outside.
As I delve deeper into different topics I’m studying, I’m realizing there is so much I can share with not just my family, but friends and those who are interested in learning. I hope you gain something from my experience and hope you share it with others as well. Because knowing is half the battle with fitness. And learning to be flexible in your fitness routine can benefit you in ways you haven’t even imagined.