Allow Time for Stretching


stretching

Prior to performing virtually any form of physical activity, it is important to set aside a small amount of time to stretch. In general, the amount of time that you spend stretching should reflect the amount of time that you plan to exercise.

For example, if you will be exercising for 90 minutes, the amount of time that you should spend stretching before you actually perform your aerobic workout should be about 10 minutes.

Regardless of how short your aerobic workout is, you should always stretch for at least 5 minutes before beginning your aerobic routine.

In general, your aerobic workouts should typically last less than 90 minutes. This being said, stretching for approximately 10 minutes is more than sufficient.

Although it may seem like a nuisance to spend 10 minutes on stretches (combined with even more time for a warm up before the stretch), it is very important to do so. Stretching can help to prevent injuries, prepare your body for the workout, focus your mind and allow for a much for productive session. By making sure that your joints and muscles can move in their full range of motion, the much smaller motions that you may be using in your workout session will be much easier to achieve.

The Proper Time to Stretch


In general, your stretch should occur no more than 30 minutes before you plan to start your regular workout. So, if you plan to start your workout at 5:00 p.m., your stretch should ideally begin at 4:20 p.m. (earliest) or 4:50 p.m. (latest). Once you pass the 30 minute mark between your stretch and workout, the stretch will begin to rapidly lose its effectiveness. If at all possible, do your stretches immediately before your workout to obtain the best results.

Some people even like to add another stretch after their workout to keep their warm muscles limber for the rest of the day. This is a good idea if you have time. However, do not split up the stretch before your workout into two 5 minute sessions (one before and one after). In order to be effective, your pre-workout stretch needs to be long enough to address every muscle that will be used during your exercises. A short warm up using light cardiovascular exercises before your stretching session is fine.

Why Stretch?


There are several specific benefits to stretching before your regular workout:

stretching
  • Muscle Tension is Reduced: As you begin your work out, the tension in your muscles has been building up all day (or all night if you work out in the morning). There are many injuries that are caused by a lack of flexibility in the muscles and joints when they are not yet ready to extend or contract.

  • Range of Motion Increases: By properly stretching, your joints will be more capable of extending around their full range of motion.

  • Muscle Coordination Increases: Your muscles must work together and in unison in order for your body to perform the various physical movements required to complete your exercise routine,

    Proper stretching teaches every part of your body to relax into cooperation and work as a single unit. This is important in the prevention of injury and the maximization efficiency and results.

  • Better Blood Circulation: Stretching warms up the blood stream and dilates the blood vessels. Not only will this reduce the tension that physical activity puts on your heart, it will also allow your muscles to receive larger volumes of nutrients and function at a much greater level.

  • Increase In Energy: All of the other benefits of stretching will combine to give you higher levels of energy and a more effective way to use them. When you stretch, more hormones are automatically made available that provide your body with energy in the form of extra carbs and fatty acids. These extra nutrients provide your body with an excess reserve of energizing compounds.

  • Increase in Flexibility: Stretching before regular exercise sessions has the added benefit of improving your daily activities. Not only will a good stretch increase your productivity during workouts, simple tasks like sitting or standing and walking can become even easier if your muscles are constantly kept agile.

The Proper Stretch


Follow these guidelines to ensure that your stretching session is beneficial:

  • Stretch each set of muscles evenly. This balance is essential as stretching one side of your body fully and ignoring the other is counterproductive. When you stretch one leg, stretch the other in the same way.

  • Avoid stretching to the point of pain. It is normal to feel a little tightness at the climax of the stretch but pain is not desirable.

  • Move through your stretches slowly. Keep each stretch relaxing and even. When you release a stretch, ease out of it. Stretches are generally held for 12-15 seconds.

  • Avoid bouncing or jerking during a stretch. Doing so can push your muscles past the point of pain and quickly injure them.

  • Pay careful attention to your breathing. Don't hold your breath during a stretch. Focus on deep and cleansing air rather than labored and quick breaths.

Good Stretches for Aerobic Exercise


  • Hamstring: While sitting, place your right leg directly to the front, and bend your left leg at the knee. The bottom of your left foot should be tucked to the inside of your right thigh. Bend towards your stretched leg at your waist and try to touch your right foot with your fingertips. Hold this stretch for 12-15 seconds and switch to stretching the left leg.

  • Quadriceps Stretch: Begin by lying on the left side of your body with your left leg bent at the knee. Bend your other leg and grab the ankle with your right hand. Pull the ankle towards your mid-section. Hold this stretch for 12-15 seconds and switch to stretching the other side of your body.

  • Calf Muscle Stretch: Begin by standing a few feet from a flat wall. Place your right foot behind you about a foot and a half while not bending at the knee. Place your hands on the wall and begin bending the left knee to stretch the right leg. Hold this stretch for 12-15 seconds and switch to stretching the left leg.

If You are Still Not Convinced...


stretching calf

A 2007 medical study found that in all the cases of injuries caused by aerobic exercise, 40% were muscle or joint injuries from a lack of a stretching session before exercise.

There are a great deal of people that exercise without stretching beforehand. By simply allowing for 10 minutes before a long exercise session, you can technically prevent almost 40% of injuries from happening in the first place.

If you add in the other side effects of a good stretching session such as allowing the mind to focus and increasing muscle coordination, an even larger amount of injuries are less likely to happen.

If you suffer and injury because you did not stretch, you may risk losing a great deal more than 10 minutes every session. You may lose several weeks or months of exercise. Stretching is a preventative technique to protect your body. You would be wise to take advantage of it.