10 Injury Preventing Minutes for Every Workout

10 Injury Preventing Minutes for Every Workout

By: SARAH CAMPBELL

Stretching – the seemingly superfluous and repetitious movement of bending and flexing the arms across the chest, the length of a bicep or the back of the legs. It turns out that it could be more beneficial than you think. Dedicating 10 minutes to stretching each workout can alleviate muscle soreness and prevent injury.

Personally, I tend to skip over stretching more often than not. I find that after a grueling hour or so of cardio, followed by at least 20 minutes of weights, I am eager to get out of the gym. Stretching somehow seems to be less important than the rest of my workout. Perhaps this is because it comes at the end. I would rather escape the fluorescent lights and techno music, change into my pedestrian clothing and return to the day’s activities. I can only think of everything else I need to fit into my packed day. On occasion I find myself stretching because of pain, a knot in my calf or a tight quad. Otherwise I step off the treadmill and speed walk straight to the showers. Sound familiar?

Thus far, stretching only when my muscles are aggravated has worked. However, I have to admit that my gut continually urges me to find time for flexibility, to hop on a mat and fold my torso over my legs, to hover in Downward-facing Dog, or press my toes to my rear and feel the fire in my thigh. With the new year around the corner, I decided it was time to investigate the benefits of stretching.

Ashley Cantor, yoga instructor at Integral Yoga, gave me a better understanding of why stretching is a necessity. “Stretching before movement is important because it lengthens out the muscles, allowing them to release tension and [promotes an increased] range of motion,” says Cantor. This is easier for those in yoga class, where the warm up and cool down is incorporated into the practice.

For those of us outside of the yoga studio, Cantor recommends stretching prior to working out because injury can occur when movement is forced upon a tight body. Muscles to stretch pre-workout include calves, quads, and hamstrings. A good calf and hamstring stretch is simple to achieve.

  • Stand with the majority of your weight on your right leg, extend your left leg directly in front of you and flex your left foot. Then bend your supporting leg and tilt your upper body over your left leg. You should feel the stretch behind the left leg. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.
  • Stand on your right leg for a quality quad stretch. Bend the left leg, grab onto your left foot and pull toward your bottom. You should feel a nice stretch down your quad.

After you complete your workout, you want to stretch the same muscles you covered earlier, but hold the poses a tad longer. You also may want to go a little deeper into the stretches. “Stretching post-movement, [which] allows the muscles to relax and the energy to flow freely throughout the body so that it can absorb all of the benefits of the workout,” says Cantor. Cantor says a basic Downward-facing Dog is a suitable stretch for most people. It hits the hamstrings, back, neck, and arms. For a beneficial hip stretch, Pigeon Pose works well or you can sit Indian style and fold your torso over your legs, reaching your hands out in front of you to create as much length as possible. This should also target your back muscles.

Stretching not only helps the body ease in and out of a workout, but it also helps enhance the overall effectiveness. Immediately, my mind flooded with questions. Have I been living under a rock? Why haven’t I been stretching? Why would I rob myself of the easiest part of my exercise routine?

It seems that I am not alone in my disregard of stretching. Top New York Health & Racquet Club trainer, Tony Ebanks, says, “one of the most common mistakes people make is not stretching.” According to Ebanks, stretching regularly can lessen soreness and improve future workouts. He suggests a light stretch pre-workout, because you don’t want to stretch cold muscles too intensely. The real stretch should occur after you’ve worked up a sweat. “This is when your muscles are warm, and you should go for a deep stretch,” says Ebanks. He attributes the reason behind stretch avoidance to impatience. “When you finish your workout you just want to go; go home, go to work, go wherever you’re scheduled to be next,” says Ebanks. Luckily for his clients, Ebanks includes stretching in their workouts. For those of us exercising solo, it’s time we put in the extra 10 minutes for flexibility’s sake.

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  1. Stretch Your Way Into the New Year | Get Fit Get Life - December 31, 2011

    […] Learn how to stretch to prevent injuries. Are you a runner? Learn some beneficial stretching techniques to improve your performance. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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