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How to stretch and why

It's well accepted that stretching before exercise or competition is beneficial.

When getting ready to workout, we all know that a good stretch routine can go a long way. Not only does it get our muscles active and our blood flow pumping, but it can help us move freely, move further, and reduce our risk of injury.

Is your stretch routine optimal for your workout? Or for your goals? Or for your body?

Like anything, we can do it right, wrong, or somewhere in between. Also, too much of anything can be harmful, and not enough can leave us short.

Stretching has a right way and a wrong way, and a right time and wrong time. Let's get specific to what you need when we spend time to do some stretching

Most people will do some stretching right before they get active. This helps them to loosen up and reduces their injury risk. However, if you stretch too aggressively or for too long, your injury risk may actually increase.

If you are holding a stretch, called static stretching, for more than 45 seconds, then we can detect a decline in strength, power, and speed. Not what you want when getting ready for a good workout or to compete. If you are doing stretching prior to exercise, it's recommended to keep it under 30 seconds.

Getting ready for activity does benefit from a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretching is working in and out of a position with shortened hold lengths. Dynamic stretching or movement is a great primer to get ready for activity.

That's not to say that long hold static stretching is never beneficial. Quite the opposite. If your goal is to increase muscle length and joint mobility, then long hold stretches are highly beneficial. It's the timing of when you apply these stretches that needs to be considered.

If you have finished working out and are all warmed up, then a stretch held for more than 30 seconds can help you lengthen those warmed up muscles, and help create lasting length changes to carry into the future. Stretching is also a great technique to help recover from intense exercise. As a muscle lengthens, it squeezes out some of the negative byproducts from strenuous activity.

Even if you didn't have a vigorous workout, you may still have the goal of lengthening tissues and speeding along your recovery. If the muscle is warmed up, then a gentle hold for longer durations can make some lasting length changes.

When applying a static stretch, it's important to find where you need to stretch. That means that no two people are alike, and neither are your left and right side, and neither will you be today and tomorrow. Like everything in training, you need to evaluate where you are today. You might find leg to have more tightness than the other. You might find that today you are particularly tight in your back. You may be surprised to find that you are actually very relaxed and loose instead.

Depending on how you feel each day, and what your long term goal is, will help determine the type and duration of stretching that best fits you on that day.

Prior to working out, you may find some light hold stretches for durations less than 30 seconds to be a good way to get started. Then you may want to work into a more dynamic stretch, which will both help you move in and out of a position, but will also get your heart rate up and your body warmed. Follow that with some movement preparation specific to your exercises planned and you have a formula to crush you workout.

It doesn't stop there though. Completing your workout with an appropriate cool down, hydration, and recovery can make big time gains. During this time, you may pick a lesser intensity activity such as walking, biking, or even easing back into your dynamic movements.

While your body is still warmed up, longer hold stretches for 45 seconds or more can have the biggest impact. This is where you cannot only help your body to recover, but you can influence and increase it's flexibility. Like many things, when it's warm, it's more pliable. When it's cold, it's stiffer. Get your body warmed up for stretching. Trying to stretch a stiff body isn't very comfortable or productive.

Use stretching as part of your routine to take care of yourself. Apply the right kind of stretching at the right time and you will feel gains going forward that allow you to do more and be more comfortable. #snowbeastperformance

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