Let's start with stretching. The information I'm about to share comes from celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak who's celeb clients include Megan Fox, Kate Beckinsale, Katy Perry, Robert Downey Jr., Nina Dobrev, Maria Menounos... basically everyone with a hot bod. So back to stretching. We all know that stretching is important. But do you know why? Or when you should/shouldn't stretch? You may think you do, but I'm gonna bet, you don't know the full story. Here are 6 quick myths/facts about stretching:
1. You should stretch before and after a workout. FALSE. What?! This is one I didn't really know. Basically a study came out that found static stretching (a stretch you hold without moving) can actually harm you. When you do static stretching on a "cold" muscle before a workout you are temporarily weakening the muscle, which diminishes the strength and can result in injury. What is OK is dynamic stretching - stretching with movement. Think leg kicks, crab-walks, lunges, and arm rotations/swings. This is the kind of stretching you will see athletes doing and now you know why!
2. Stretching reduces your chance of being injured. FALSE. It isn't stretching that prevents injury, but rather a warm-up that prevents injury. A warm-up is essentially a gentle aerobic activity, or a lighter version of your workout. What this does is warms up your muscles, tendons and liagments, making them more pliable and flexible. He used the example of pulling on a rubber band when it's cold vs warm. After your workout there is no evidence that stretching decreases your chance of injury, but if it feels good and helps you relax, then do it!
3. A good stretch hurts. FALSE. Stretching is meant to feel good, and the second that you feel any sort of pain you need to back off because you might be overstretching. This is something that makes me think of yoga and how one instructor said that it is ok to feel uncomfortable but never in pain.
4. Never bounce in a stretch. TRUE. This one drives me BONKERS! I feel like I've always known that bouncing during a stretch is the worst thing you can do. I see it every now and again in yoga class where one person starts bouncing to get deeper into a stretch. I can't stand it. Basically the repeated momentum of your body pushes your body to its limit and increases the chance of a serious (and painful) muscle strain or tear. If not a serious tear, it can also create micro-tears which leaves scar tissue and tightens the muscle further. Please, if you are a bouncer, cease and desist today!
5. Stretching prevents muscle soreness. FALSE. This one is the sister of #2. It's similar in that the key to reducing muscle soreness after an exercise is a good warm up at the start, helping to ease ourselves into new activites. Although stretching can help prevent stiffness, there is no evidence it can prevent soreness. With Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it occurs as a result of microscopic "damage" to the fibers of the muscles involved in the exercise, and simply put, stretching can't undo damage or accelerate healing.
6. Stretching can relieve back pain. TRUE. Whatever the cause or reason, 80% of Americans have been bothered by back pain at some point in their lives, resulting in spending of $50 billion each year. Considering that, it's important to learn what you can do now to prevent it. Yoga and Pilates classes include exercises and stretches specifically designed for you back, so if you do either of those you're already ahead! If you don't, just look some up online that you can mix into your routine like the superman exercise or the cobra stretch.
There you have it: Stretching 101. Now onto a quick, but important, fact about sweating that I learned from Jillian Michaels. Every one sweats, whether a little or a lot depends on the person, but during your workout you are likely prepared to sweat. The only problem here is that a lot of people think that the amount they sweat is directly correlated to the quality or intensity of their workout, or the amount of calories being burned. It is not. Sweating is just your body's way of cooling itself, so if you find you're sweating buckets, it's not always a good thing and probably means you're overheating. Kind of like I said at the beginning of this series, that it is SO important to listen to your body, it's also important to pay attention to how your body is reacting to your exercises. And whether you're working out or not, but ESPECIALLY when you're working out, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
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