Don’t Hurt Yourself Before the Work-Out Begins
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It’s a common understanding that stretching is necessary before heading into that ultimate work-out that causes the sweat to run, the pounds to be lost, and the muscles to become firmer. An important fact that has become overlooked is that when stretching, there are ways to make errors that end up hurting your body way before the “hard-stuff” begins.
You most likely have a regimen that you like, whether it be running with the puppy around the neighborhood or jumping on your choice machines at the gym. All doctors, trainers, and gym operators will tell you that stretching is a necessary part of all that you wish to accomplish. By stretching before the heavy exertion, you can avoid injuries to your body that include pulled muscles, and the stretching helps improve your performance when indulging in sports as well as all other physical activities. When stretching is done correctly, the benefits are astronomical. Unfortunately…people can stretch completely incorrectly and end up with nothing but pain.
Common mistakes seem easy to understand and easy to avoid, but here’s a refresher course:
Stretching is something people believe they need to do post-workout, but in actuality, a pre-stretch will make sure you do not hurt yourself beforehand. The pre-stretch is very simple; something that will increase your body’s core temperature to make your muscles more pliable and generate blood flow. Some small things to choose from are jogging in place, jumping jacks, or taking a short, brisk walk around the house. This raises your heart rate and respiratory rate enough to increase blood flow and increase the benefits of your stretching routine.
Another error that occurs is when people attempt to do the wrong type of stretch at the wrong time. There are multiple stretching styles, so you need to choose the one that is focused on your fitness level. If you’re a newbie, your stretch needs to be calmer than the more dynamic stretching techniques those who have worked out for some time utilize. Another note to make is that “stretch” to many means holding a “pose” or stretching a particular muscle for a period of time. This is called static stretching; however, these stretches are recommended after the work-out is over in order to help relieve muscle fatigue.
Do not overstretch muscles, either. A common mistake in the stretch is to exert too much energy and end up pulling a muscle. Stretching should never be painful. Therefore, slowly ease into the stretch you choose and don’t push your body past its limits. As long as you stay in a normal range of motion that’s comfortable for you, then the stretching will help. Push too hard, and you could end up with nothing but pain.
Another way of stretching that is a common mistake is when you choose to bounce vigorously as part of the routine. This can definitely lead to a pulled muscle because the motion can trigger the muscle to tighten in order to protect itself, defeating the entire purpose.
Holding your breath while stretching is also something you need to watch out for. Conscious breathing makes stretching far more effective, but many people unintentionally hold their breath, which can cause muscles to become tense and resistant. In addition, breathing deeply and slowly through the nose increases blood flow and delivers oxygen to the muscles making them more relaxed.
One last tidbit: Contrary to popular belief, never stretch an injured muscle. This will not help the pain and could make the healing process even longer. Injured tissues need time to heal, so by resting and applying heat or ice as needed, you can return to your stretches more quickly and head back into your work-out routine sooner rather than later.
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