WHY STRETCH ? Have you ever been involved in a real stretching program? Believe me it is probably the healthiest form of exercise you can do. If you incorporate stretching into you daily life you will have almost an immediate positive body release . BE AWARE soreness is inevitable if common sense is not used in beginning a stretching program. Begin slowly and at your own pace.
Stretching unblocks nerve twists,
It allows better electrochemical transmission,(the connection between the nerve and the muscle),
It helps to "position correct" muscle fibers.
Not to mention it is a great strength training program.
Do it, very importantly do it correctly,and you will see what I mean.
Ever notice how strong cats are? What do they do all day (but shed) they stretch. Cats are proportionately very strong and I believe its due to their constant stretching, not all but considerable.
These are all parts to either a healthy or not so healthy body. Stretching and walking are the best and safest combination of physical activity you could put together.
Stretching is a form of mind relaxation as well, which will relax and de-stress the body naturally. By reducing muscle tension through mental relaxation and control, you are actually going to the source of the tension.
You will increase your range of motion by allowing freer and easier movement which promotes better coordination.
You will prevent injuries such as muscle strains. (A strong, pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong, unstretched muscle) not to mention a weak un-stretched muscle.
Start a stretching program soon it will give a whole other demension to your walking process as well as your quality of life.
IT FEELS GOOD!!, and
It Will Stretch Your life.
WHEN TO STRETCH ? Stretching can take place from a simple stretch as you get out of bed to a planned and controlled stretching program. You can stretch any time. Just remember a couple of things.
Don't force a cold muscle, and
Don't bounce stretch. (Use evenly progressive stretch or sustained held stretches).
When stretching for other activities, warm up your muscles for a couple of minutes first, walk in place, easy body rotations, easy arm rotations etc.
Otherwise stretching can be done any time you feel like it:
at work at your desk
in a car
waiting for a bus
before any physical activity
before any mental activity
It is good to get into a habit of stretching at various times of the day. Incorporate it into your day at different times. Think stretch all the time,
After sitting or standing for a long time,
When you feel stiff
As you rise in the morning
Stretching is a slow and deliberate thing, not a see how far you can twist or bend using strength from other muscles to pull you. It is a letting go exercise allow your body to bend, and fold, and turn while you hold it in a letting go kind of way.
Breatheing plays a big part here, but we will talk about that in the next section.
HOW TO STRETCH ?
QUESTION EVERYTHING you have learned about stretching before entering into this Website. There are two ways to stretch
The Right Way, and
The Wrong Way
The Right way to stretch is a relaxed, sustained stretch with your attention focused on -a letting go- of the muscles being stretched as well as an unforced action of the muscles needed to pull the body in direction needed for stretching the muscles being stretched.
The Wrong Way to stretch (unfortunately practiced by most people), is to bounce up and down OR to force a stretch using other muscles, even to the point of pain.
The latter methods can actually do more harm than good.
If you stretch correctly and regularly, you will find that every movement you make becomes easier. It will take time to loosen up tight muscles or muscle groups, but time is quickly forgotten when you start to feel good and when you understand the correct concept of stretching.
The Mild Pull Remember to warm up a little first.
When you begin a stretch, spend 10 to 30 seconds in the mild stretch. No bouncing! Go to the point where you feel a mild tension, and relax (let go) as you hold the stretch. The feeling of tension should subside as you hold the position. If it does not, ease off slightly and find a degree of tension that is comfortable. The mild stretch reduces muscular tightness and readies the tissues for the full stretch. In other words you are working up to the full Pull.
Remember (NO FORCE) think your muscles into "LETTING GO" relax.
The Full Pull
After the mild stretch, move slowly into the Full Pull stretch mode. Again, no bouncing. Move a fraction of an inch further until you again feel a mild tension and hold (thinking letting go) for 10 to 30 seconds or until you find yourself using force to hold the stretch, at which time back off alittle relax, then try it again. Be in control mentally. The Full Pull stretch fine-tunes the muscles and increases flexibility. Before long you will have reached your own structural stretching limits.
BREATHEING Helps Letting Go Your breatheing should be slow, rhythmical and under your control. There are many schools of thought on breatheing techniques. I have one that I have had success with. Please allow me to explain.
Start with the tip of your tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Now, As you breathe, breathe in through BOTH your nose and your mouth at the same time. As you breathe in, count (to yourself) to 4 ie. 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 and as you breathe out count to 6 the same way.
Notice breatheing out takes longer than breatheing in. As you breathe in pull the air in with your diaphragm or stomach, (Your stomach should be swelling up). When you breathe out colapse your stomach as if it is pushing the air out, slowly. Your diaphragm or stomach is used like a bellows.
This slow in and out process, through the nose and mouth at the same time, will greatly aid your relaxation and letting go.
Do not hold your breath while stretching. If a stretch position inhibits your natural breatheing pattern, then you are not relaxed. Just ease up on the stretch so you can breathe naturally and rhythmically.
The STRETCH REFLEXYour muscles are protected by a mechanism called the stretch reflex. Any time you stretch the muscle fiber to far, either by overstretching or bouncing, a nerve reflex responds by sending a signal to the muscles telling it to contract. This reflex keeps the muscle from being injured. Therefore, when you stretch to far to fast, you are tightening the very muscles you are trying to stretch. (You get a similiar involuntary reaction when you accidentally touch something hot). Before you think about it your body quickly moves away from the heat.
Holding the stretch to far, moving to quickly, or bouncing, only activates the stretch reflex. Stretching in this manner only causes pain and possible physical damage due to microscopic tearing of muscle fibers. This tearing of muscle fiber causes the formation of scar tissue, with gradual loss of elasticity. The muscles become tight and sore.
Many of us were conditioned in high school to the idea of "no pain equals no gain". We learned to associate pain with physical improvement. This simply is not true. Don't be fooled. Stretching, when done correctly, is not painful. Learn to listen to your body. Pain is an indication that something is wrong or you are progressing to fast for your body. In any case you are not in sync with your body. Go slow and have patience. Get into it, it really is habit forming.
OVER 50 ??It's never to late to start stretching. In fact, the older we get, the more important it becomes to stretch on a regular basis.
With age and inactivity, the body gradually loses its range of motion. Muscles can lose their elasticity and become weak and tight. The body has an amazing capacity for the recovery of lost flexibility and strength if a regular program of stretching is followed.
The basic method of stretching is the same regardless of differences in age and flexibility. Stretching properly means that you do not go beyond your own comfortable limits. Learn to stretch your body without force, stretch as if you were bending something precious that you did not want to break, but, had to be bent back into shape. Always consult a physician (doctor) before beginning a fitness program, especially if you have personal health questions.