stretching, do I have to?

stretching, do I have to?

Stretching, do I have to? It’s up to you! I stretch every time I go to the gym. Most days I actually stretch before and after my workouts. Why? Because my trainer told me to. Yes, I trust that Chris knows what he’s talking about since he is the expert (I’m not).

Stretching takes time, 5 to 10 minutes. I do a series of stretches that Chris showed me at our first session, I’ve added a couple of yoga stretches and incorporated neck stretches that my doctor gave me a pamphlet on. Yes, I do the neck stretches because my doctor told me to. Why? Well on two occasions I’ve had neck strains resulting most likely from my workouts. Just like a lot of people I carry the world on my shoulders. All tension and stress that I have is right there resting on my shoulders and neck. It takes focus to make sure I’m not tensing my shoulders and neck when they are not needed.

My doctor also suggested that I visualize the muscle(s) that any given exercise is intended to focus on, so I pay close attention (well most of the time) to the instructions/demo that Chris gives me before I lift weights or do an exercise. The doc also suggested shoulder shrugs at any time I’m feeling tension in my neck.

Back to stretching. As I was researching the benefits of stretching online, I’ve come across some other recommendations and yes these recommendations will add time to your gym visit. But if you are like me, the biggest challenge is getting to the gym, once I’m there time is no longer a factor. Now for those of you that prefer to workout before you head to work you may have to get up just a little earlier to have time to incorporate these suggestions.

Several websites recommend warming up the muscles before stretching. These recommendations are based on recent studies done on the impact of stretching before a workout. So this means (let’s call it) 5 minutes on the treadmill to get the blood flowing, then 5 to 10 minutes of stretching before your cardio or strength building workout.

I know, I know…you want to know why stretching is important and I agree you shouldn’t stretch just because I said so. An article on the Mayo Clinic website states that stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion of your joints, improves circulation and can relieve stress. Click Here to read the article. Experts cite that stretching reduces the risk of injury during exercise or sports activities. Stretching is also believed to decrease muscle soreness. I have found that stretching gives me a the time I need to focus on my workout and get all the stresses of the day out of my head so I can be 100% present for my workout.

I little disclaimer…I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer. If you have a pre-existing condition or injury you should always consult your doctor before you begin a workout or stretching program. And stretching should not result in pain. If you are experiencing pain during stretching it may be due to an improper technique or a medical problem. Not sure? Consult a health professional.

Until next week (have a great weekend)…Kathi

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