Why Is Stretching So Important?
I’m sure you’ve been told before that stretching is important to prevent injury, increase flexibility and joint health, improve your posture and increasing blood flow to the muscles to decrease muscle soreness. But if you are anything like the majority of the population, this aspect of the fitness regime usually gets neglected. So what could happen if you train hard and never stretch?
You’re being really good with your hardcore workouts, lifting heavier, working at a higher intensity and you’re starting to see the gains. You look leaner and you feel great. Who has time to stretch right? You have to rush back to the office or meet friends for lunch. Then the morning after that hardcore HIITS class you wake up with a sore lower back. Nothing to worry about as after a few half-hearted roll downs it feels slightly better.
You carry on working out hard and even your boyfriend says how great you look! Fast forward another two weeks and you now notice your back is aching after sitting all day at work. You mention it to a colleague and you laugh together about how you are getting old while rolling the hips around to get some relief.
No big deal though and you have a heavy weights session tonight at the gym. Surely it will feel fine after a warm-up. You decide to ignore the back twinge and go ahead with your heavy squat plan. Then POW….. you feel something pull in your lower back. When you stand back up again the back ache has progressed to a full on painful strain that seems to linger. Oh crap!
What Went Wrong?
You might just think you got unlucky and that injury is bound to happen at some point when you training really hard…….no! Don’t let yourself fall into this mindset – you can avoid these types of injuries if you’re smart. Yes age and genetics come into it but most of the times it is us that causes an injury.
So what went wrong? A lot of leg strengthening work is great but will also contribute to shorter, tighter muscle fibres and if you sit down for long hours at work this will only re-enforce the tightening. Continually tight hamstrings will eventually pull on the pelvis causing a posterior pelvic tilt. This in turn will change the curvature of the spine and could lead to extra lower back pressure and even a vertebral herniation if it goes on too long.
This is a story that happens all too often with people working long hours, sitting down all day then rushing to the gym for a hard workout and missing out any sort of mobility and flexibility work. Yes your friends might be waiting for you at that new restaurant down the road, or a new episode might be on that night and you need to rush home. But is it worth it at the expense of an injury? Keeping strong is a must, but being flexible is essential to stay pain and injury free.
How to Add Stretching To Your Routine
To improve your flexibility you need to start working on it regularly. Preferably every day. If you feel you are not good at motivating yourself, try going to a yoga or Pilate’s class that focuses on flexibility. Alternately, some fitness centres may have classes focused solely on stretching.
If you are dedicated enough to start a stretching routine yourself, set aside 15-20 minutes each evening. I’m not saying you have to miss that exciting episode of Eastenders! Set yourself up in front of the TV on a yoga mat and you won’t have to miss out on the latest east-end disaster. Muscles to focus on stretching are; the lower back, hamstrings, glutes, hips, quads, hip flexors and the chest.