Stretching And Exercising
Stretching before and after exercise activity is sometimes overlooked because we want to get right to our exercising. When we do not stretch before exercising, we not only start a bad habit but we are more likely to get injuries.
How stretching works on our muscles can help us remember to stretch them before and after each exercise session. When the muscles are cold, they are in a shortened position and have a lower amount of blood flow to them.
When we start to stretch a muscle, it is forced to increase in length, and that triggers blood flow to that area. Increasing the amount of blood to a muscle group is like adding oil to your car engine, it acts as a lubricant.
For a muscle to reach its optimal lengthened position, it must be stretched for a minimum of twenty to thirty seconds.
Muscle contractions have two variables, one is the length, and the other is tension. A muscle contraction is called isometric when the muscle tension changes, but the muscle length remains the same.
Likewise, a muscle contraction is called isotonic when the muscle length changes, but the muscle tension remains the same. When muscle contracts and gets shorter it is called concentric, and when it gets longer it is called eccentric.
When a muscle is asked to move into a lengthened position quickly, the fibers can tear and break causing strains.
A stretching session can be started by raising both arms over your head as you breathe in a large amount of air. Getting oxygen into your lungs and heart will increase the body’s circulation.
Do this for a minimum of three to five times but not so much that you become light-headed. Step side to side to get the lower body moving next. While you are stepping side to side, you can be stretching your arms and shoulders.
When done with those go into trunk rotation or twisting at your waist and swinging your arms left to right very gently.
Then you can do lateral bending of the trunk by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and raise one arm to the ceiling while the other hand moves toward the floor keeping your head looking forward.
Stretch the quadriceps and the hamstrings, or the front and back of your thigh next.
Then finally, move to the calves and the ankles and you are now all stretched and ready to begin your exercise session.
Let’s recap the stretches:
1. Big deep breath while raising both arms overhead
2. Step side to side and stretch the arms and shoulders
3. Trunk rotations or twisting from left to right at the waist while swinging your arms loosely
4. Lateral bending at the waist
5. Front and back of the legs
6. Calves and ankles
One of the most important things to remember is, “listen to your body.” Stretching can be uncomfortable, and if there is any pain, stop doing that stretch. Enjoy stretching. Good Luck!
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