Why is stretching important for athletes and you
Whenever you start a training schedule you will notice that all your daily routines will either start off with stretching or end off with stretching and, sometimes, routines will incorporate both - depending on how strenuous the workout or activity will be.
What happens when you stretch?
The idea of stretching before starting any exercise is to elongate the muscular fibers to prevent injury when performing the exercise. It is vital to also perform some kind of cardio before the pre-workout stretch to get the muscles warm, as stretching too quickly whilst having cold muscles could lead to injury - especially if you start off with deeper, more intense stretches.
When stretching post-workout, your muscles won’t feel as tight or as painful. When you exercise, a chemical called lactic acid is released throughout the body and can sometimes create a buildup which is usually what makes the body feel so sore after working out. Stretching afterwards will help release lactic acid concentrates. It’s also exceptionally important to stretch after a workout to retain and increase the range of motion of your muscles.
Like everything that has to do with exercise, stretching has multiple variations.
Ballistic stretching is one of the movements that not many wellness specialists will recommend as it uses a bouncing like motion which can cause injuries.
Static stretching is when positions get held for a certain amount of time. The idea is to not hold the position to a point where you are in pain, but you do need to feel a slight pull.
Active dynamic stretching is usually done in a routine where your body must be moving. An example of this type of stretch is arms circles.
Passive stretching uses your own weight to stretch the muscles and assist you with your range of motion.
PNF stretching (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching) uses a lot of passive movement that influences deeper stretches. These movements are also beneficial to improve active and passive ranges of motion.
Benefits of properly stretching
Besides assisting the body with releasing chemical buildup, stretching can have multiple benefits that improve your overall outcome and performance.
Elongation of the muscles can assist with flexibility and performing entire ranges of motion. This means that if you want to take longer strides whilst performing any type of running, you won’t accidentally pull or hurt the body. Elongation of the muscles will also assist with tendon stretching which eliminates the tightness experienced.
A wind-down after an exercise is also quite important and by performing stretches, they can assist with relaxation, which is a perfect way to end off a session without feeling too amped up. This will increase blood flow that allows oxygen to travel through the body preventing oxygen deprivation.
Regular stretching is also beneficial to improve flexibility and assists with your mood if you are feeling stressed.