Stretch Into Wellness
just as important to our well-being as good nutrition and exercise;
unfortunately, many people think of stretching and flexibility as a
thing of the past.
Running Association is giving a wake-up call to all of us who have
neglected to maintain flexibility. Stretching decreases injury and
improves physical performance and should be incorporated into our
everyday lives. Here are some common misconceptions and excuses for not
Excuse #1: I only have 30 minutes to work out at lunch. There's no time to stretch.
"You can do enough stretching to decrease your risk of injury and
enhance your performance in less than five minutes, if you do them on a
regular basis," says Atlanta sports podiatrist Perry Julien, D.P.M.,
author of Sure Footing. Recent research indicates it is more effective
to hold a stretch for just 10 seconds, and repeat the same stretch two
or three times.
Excuse #2: I can never find the time to stretch effectively.
"You can incorporate stretching into your daily activities," says
Kalish. "I stretch the back of my legs with wall leans during my
morning shower." And you can stretch your calf muscles by gently
lowering one heel at a time off an escalator step. You can fit
stretching into many common activities. "As long as the muscle is
warmed up, stretching can be done throughout the day," says Bob
Anderson, author of Stretching.
Excuse #3: I don't know which stretches to use.
"There are no sacred stretches," says Anderson. Find a routine that
works for you and meets your specific needs." The American Running
Association provides a free brochure, "The Top 8 Stretches for
Excuse #4: It doesn't work for me. I was born inflexible.
While some people are more flexible than others, everyone can become
more limber. "Stretching should never be turned into a competitive
activity. Range of flexibility varies from one person to another, and
each individual should focus on improving his own flexibility, within
his own comfort range," says Anderson.
Excuse #5: I bounce and bounce and bounce through a stretch, but never get more flexible.
"Stretch gently and never bounce. Bouncing, or ballistic movements,
cause the muscle to tighten to protect itself. This defeats the purpose
of stretching and may cause the type of muscle tears that stretching is
meant to prevent," says Jack Broderick, president of Fitness in Today's
Times, a fitness consulting firm.
Excuse #6: I don't know how to stretch.
"In many cases, the more complicated something is, the less you do it,"
says Kalish. "The American Running Association promotes static
stretching. It is easy to understand and perform. With static
stretching, you lengthen the muscle to where there is a mild pull and
hold, without bouncing. This can be done on your own, or by using
Excuse #7: I'm too tight. It hurts when I stretch.
"If stretches cause you pain, you must be overdoing it," says
Broderick. "Pain means micro-trauma that could turn into something
bigger if you don't back off."
Excuse #8: I used to be flexible. But now I'm older, and flexibility declines with age.
You use it or you lose it. The less you move and stretch, the less
flexible you become. "If you can touch your toes at age 30, you should
be able to touch your toes at age 50" says Anderson.
Excuse #9: I'll hurt myself if I stretch.
"Some surveys ask people if they've ever been injured. Then ask if they
stretch. It may sound like stretching caused the injury when, in fact,
the injury may have occurred long before the person stretched," says
Anderson. "Such reports can be confusing."
Excuse #10: I've never stretched, so I must not need to.
Young people generally are more flexible because they have active
lifestyles. Adults, on the other hand, can often be found sitting at a
desk or standing behind a counter for long periods, which can lead to
stiffness. You need to make a conscious effort to remain flexible, no
matter what your work environment is.
For more information, visit the Association's Web site at www.americanrunning.org.