You've probably heard it a million times: "Stretch before you exercise" coupled with the well-known mantra "Never stretch a cold muscle." You think "Yeah, yeah but it's not really that important. I'll
just ease into my workout and save some time." Your body is urging you to take another look at stretching and how it can help you.
The benefits of stretching far outweigh the dangers your body faces each and everytime you choose to push your body to a limit. Whether you're reaching new goals at the gym, sitting behind a desk, gardening or riding your horse, stretching should be a part of your daily life.
* Reduces muscle stiffness and tension = Improved overall relaxation of your body
* Increases circulation of blood and lymph and perfusion of blood to the working tissue = Better nutrition and oxygenation to your muscles, tendons and ligaments while reduction congestion of waste products around the tissues.
* Increased elasticity of muscles, tendons and ligaments = Reduces the potential for strains and sprains
* Increased elasticity causes increased flexability and range of motion = Improves the length of your stride
* Improved reflex times and coordination = Your brain becomes more aware of your body where it is in space and where it's limits are
Still with me?
"A strong pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong unstretched muscle" Why? Because you have already prepped it for work. You've reduced the amount of restrictions within the tissue which help it to function at it's highest level. Your muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments are fully lubricated (with blood, oxygen, and joint fluid) and ready for action versus a muscle that's been doing very little throughout the day and you ask it to help you run a full marathon RIGHT NOW. This is how stretching ultimately prevents injuries and reduces the amount of down time you could experience from something that could have otherwise been prevented.
I PROMISE to Stretch: Now What
It doesn't really matter what method you follow to stretch. Just that you do indeed stretch!
For those of you who attend a gym with access to a personal trainer - use them.
Let them guide you and teach you the specific stretches that you need at this
period in your fitness level. For those of you who prefer to workout alone, may
I suggest Bob Anderson's book Stretching. This is the book from
which I pull my take home handouts for my clients. WIthin my office I have
started to integrate Aaron Mattes system of stretching the body called active
isolated stretching and I have had great results.
Stretching by Bob Anderson
Active Isolated Stretching: The Mattes Method by Aaron Mattes
Equine Massage: A Practical Guide by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt LMT
The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy, Equine Massage, Horse Massage by Mike Scott Equine Therapist