By Lisa Taylor,You’ve got about 30 minutes to fit in a 35-minute run before your one-hour spin class that's right before the two-hour master’s swim class you must attend. Needling your brain is the one blaring thought – ‘I NEED TO STRETCH!'But in the time-crunch world of a triathlete, — someone who is trying to fit enough swim, run and bike time in the few 24 hours of each day — stretching may be the one part of your training regiment that you end up skipping. Do me a favor. DON’T!Stretching:
Helps reduce tension.
Helps prevent injury making muscles more resistant to stress.
Helps your balance.
Stretching is one activity everyone can do to improve his or her fitness. Stretching reduces muscle tension, aids in coordination by increasing range of motion and decreasing the rigidity of your movements. It also increases your kinesthetic awareness as you focus on the individual muscles you are stretching. Stretching and flexibility may also decrease the chance of injury.The key to stretching is muscle relaxation. If the muscle is not relaxed, it is contracted and the move is considered a resistance exercise. Stretching must be practiced slowly and under control to keep the muscle relaxed during the stretch. If not done carefully, muscle fibers can be stretched too far, and/or too quickly causing microscopic tearing of the muscle. Our body elicits a stretch reflex to aid in protecting itself during such an event. When a muscle fiber is stretched too far, a nerve reflex will send a signal to the muscle telling it to contract. So how do you know how far to stretch? In order to achieve gains in flexibility, stretching must be treated as training, you want to push yourself to mild discomfort, NOT PAIN. TYPES OF STRETCHING
There are three basic types of stretching: static, dynamic and ballistic.
Static stretching is the Range of Motion (ROM) about the joint and it’s surrounding muscles during a passive movement. Static flexibility requires no voluntary muscle involvement. A partner, machine or even gravity provides the force for the stretch. This type of stretching is normally done at the end of your workout as it helps to bring your body back toward a state of rest and recovery.
Dynamic stretching is available ROM during active movements, or movements requiring muscle activity. Dynamic flexibility uses sport specific movements to increase an athlete’s readiness for competition. In contrast to static stretching, dynamic stretching is best done during your warm up as it prepares your body for the strenuous workout that lies ahead.
Ballistic stretching is similar to dynamic stretching because it uses movement. However, the movements are quick, jerky and bouncing which triggers the stretch reflex, thereby contracting the muscle, not relaxing it. This type of stretching can be dangerous and in my opinion the risks outweigh the benefits.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is a type of stretching most effectively done with a partner. PNF uses concentric and isometric muscle contractions to help the muscle relax, thereby increasing the stretch. The three types of PNF stretches are Hold-Relax, Contract-Relax, and Hold-Relax with antagonist contraction.
We will focus on static stretching in this article. In the future, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretching will be discussed at length. WHEN TO STRETCH
In a perfect world, without time restraints, dynamic stretching would be performed after a 10 minute warm up and before your workout, while static stretching would be completed after your workout. I realize this is near impossible in this day and age, so as long as your core temperature is increased, stretching can be done anytime. The increase in core temperature will allow increased blood flow to the muscles, as well as decrease the viscosity of fluids in your joints allowing you to stretch easier. Think of your muscles as taffy. Cold taffy breaks when pulled, whereas warm taffy will stretch.
The following are supplemental stretches that you may want to add to your current flexibility routine.
Lisa (trixie) Taylor, B.S., CSCS, is a managing partner of the trainers studio, a semi-private facility specializing in personal training and athlete development. She graduated from Michigan State University where she studied both Kinesiology and Business. Lisa has been in the training field for 5 years.
I dream of a better tomorrow... where chickens can cross roads and not have their motives questioned