I will be honest; I rarely used to stretch when I was playing college volleyball. I used stretching time as a time to chat with my teammates…. oops! The only times I actually put effort into stretching was when I felt like I was really sore. This is definitely something I’ve worked on since studying for my personal training certification.
When studying, I learned the importance of stretching and why it’s crucial for people to incorporate into their fitness routines. However, stretching tends to be something we often neglect. When I asked a few friends if they stretch they used excuses like, “I’ve always had tight muscles”, “I don’t think it really does anything for me”, or “It’s just so boring!” But all of these excuses don’t really matter – stretching is essential!
So why is stretching so important? First off, stretching can help improve your performance in physical activities. Flexibility is joint specific so stretching helps improve your joints range of motion. By having a better range of motion, you will decrease your chances of getting injured. And NO one wants to get injured! Stretching also helps increase the blood flow to your muscles.
It’s also important because during intense workouts, there is only a certain amount of oxygen available. This is where lactate is made. Our bodies convert that lactate to energy without the use of oxygen. What tends to happen is this lactate acid builds up in our bloodstreams faster than we can burn it off, causing lactate acid buildup. Stretching after an intense workout helps ease the tenderness of those muscles that have lactate acid buildup.
I’ve definitely stepped up my stretching game since my days of playing college volleyball. Now I incorporate stretching after every workout. For me personally, I’ve found that stretching after my workouts helps decrease soreness the next day. In college, I remember waking up the next morning after a late practice (where I didn’t stretch afterwards) and felt so sore and stiff. Now that I’ve incorporated stretching into my daily workout routine, I find that this happens much less. I can still feel a bit of stiffness but much less than I did in college.
So what stretches are important to incorporate? Stretching your whole body is obviously the best idea, but if you don’t have time to get a full stretch session in after a workout, try to stretch the muscles you just focused on during your routine. If you ran 6 miles, make sure you stretch your legs, butt and even your lower back. If you did an arm workout, make sure you get focus on your arms, neck and upper back.
Make sure you listen to your body. If it you are in pain while stretching stop doing that stretch! You should never be in pain.
If you are stuck and don’t really know where to start, take a look at this article for a great 5 minute stretching routine. And if you are trying to improve your flexibility and want to take it a step further, consider incorporating yoga into your weekly routine. It’s an activity I’ve been incorporating and it’s really helped! I use the YogaStudio app, which you can download through the iTunes store.
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-physical setback, body acceptance and wellness.