Stretch! Stretching is a part of my fitness that I have never done consistently. I just rarely took the time to do it. Oh, I might stretch out after a workout for a minute or two. And that wasn’t per body part. Nope, that was for my entire body. But when you’re young, recover quickly and are moderately flexible stretching just isn’t on your mind much.
As I’ve progressed through my forties I have discovered that I am becoming less and less flexible. My mobility is decreasing and I am having more lower back pain. I imagine that this is due to not only the aging issue but also the fact that I have been spending most of my work life seated at a desk. These symptoms increased drastically this past year as I did more low rep weight training. In fact, my back pain and lack of mobility has at times been somewhat debilitating. I recently decided to attempt to combat these issues by not only increasing the amount of time I spend stretching but also the frequency.
Each morning before I exercise I run through a series of dynamic stretches to prepare my body for the workout. Dynamic stretches are different from traditional static stretches. In static stretching you would hold the stretch for a period of time. An example of this type of stretching would be bending over and touching your toes. Static stretching done as a warm up before exercising can actually lead to strained or even torn muscles. This is due to the muscle loosening and having more difficulty springing back to normal quickly as would be necessary when performing strength training or running. Dynamic stretches are movements which not only warm up your muscles and joints, but allow you to gently stretch your muscles without overstretching. Examples of this are neck, shoulder and torso circles, squats, leg swings, ankle rotations etc.. After my workout is complete I will take a few minutes to stretch out the muscles I just worked using more traditional static stretches.
I will usually try to take a few minutes each morning and again in the afternoon at work to perform a combination of dynamic and static stretching. I find that after sitting for a couple of hours I can feel my muscles tightening up. Stretching throughout the day helps me to stay loose, wake up a bit and regain focus.
Increasing my stretching has helped me tremendously. I have noticed a reduction in my back pain and muscle soreness. It also has helped my overall mobility and seems to be speeding up my recovery time.