Happy Labor Day!
I hope that through the long weekend, you’ll be getting some much needed r&r. With rest in mind, I wanted to talk about the importance of giving our physical bodies rest: stretching.
I’m sure we can all relate that we hated/still hate the dynamic warmup and cool down stretch before and after every sports practice. I personally thought these were a waste of time so during my morning runs this summer, I skipped warming up and cooling down and boy, did it take a toll on my body.
Just like my stubborn old self you may ask “Why is stretching important?” Harvard Health says: “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
As a runner, I need to keep my muscles limber and loose but strong as well. However, during the summer, after I came back from runs that strengthened my legs, I would go straight into showering and carrying on with my day. This made my muscles gradually day by day become shorten and tight and weak.
Stretching involves more than just body stretching – it also includes foam rolling, muscle stick, and proper nourishment. Here’s my current routine of my stretching routine.
BEFORE WORKOUT// Before a workout, you want to get dynamic stretching in “as opposed to static stretches, which are held for 30 seconds or more in the same position (think toe touches), this type of stretching involves active movements that mimic your actual workout. … During dynamic stretching, you’re constantly moving, so it provides a cardio warm-up as well” explains Julie Mulcahy, M.P.T., a sports medicine physical therapist.
Sometimes, my quads feel a bit sore, so I might get in some foam rolling in before my practice.
Now you may ask, what is foam rolling? Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (which is a fancier term for self massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points). Foam rolling can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, tennis ball or even your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points of your body, you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice. (source: http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/what-is-a-foam-roller-how-do-i-use-it-and-why-does-it-hurt)
When I overworked my legs this summer, I did A LOT of foam rolling. I did a total of foam rolling for 20 minutes – five minutes for each side and boy did that hurt. But it was definitely worth it.
AFTER WORKOUT// Post-workout is where you want to get your “static stretching” in. Personally, I love my post-workout stretches because they allow me to slow down my breathing and genuinely cool down. I don’t know the names of the exercises I personally love but here are some graphics of them.
I also make sure to do a lot of foam rolling and muscle stick after the stretch. This is how I have it in my dorm for easy storage and access. The blue object is the foam roller while the gray is my yoga mat so I have a clean space to roll out on. The muscle stick goes inside the hole the yoga mat creates. There’s definitely no excuse for properly recovering your body even if you’re living in a dorm!
What’s your favorite stretch?