To stretch, or not to stretch: that is the question
A question we have all asked ourselves at least once in our lives – Do I NEED to stretch?
So what are some of the benefits of stretching? Well, it improves your flexibility, co-ordination, balance and range of motion, helps your movement as you get older, helps to lengthen tight muscles, correct and improve posture, it feels good, it increases blood supply to the muscles which can help recover from aching muscles sooner and it’s a great way to de-stress.
You don’t necessarily need to hold a stretch still to get the benefit. Dynamic stretching is fantastic for warming up as it allows you to gently stretch the muscles after a heart raiser and keep your body warm in preparation for the work to come.
Dynamic or Static? By performing dynamic stretches that represent the main movements you are about to include in your warm up, you are preparing your body for what you are about to ask it to do. This will take your muscles and joints through the full range of movement without weight and impact and allow it to warm up fully. For example, bum kicks, leg swings, walking lunges, knee ups, are all great ways of dynamically stretching – now you know why you see footballers doing all those odd movements before they come on the pitch, especially ones that look like they are kicking an invisible footballs … !
Static stretches are more suited for cooling down after a workout and relaxing the body – saying Thank you! After a workout your body is warm, this is ideal for your static stretches as this is the time you’ll benefit from it the most. If you are a gymnast or dancer and flexibility plays a big role in your workout, then static stretches are more suitable to start off a workout with, but for your general gym workout, Saturday morning run, or fitness class, dynamic are more suited to aid your warm up.
I’ve found the routine that works for me and my clients is:
Do a quick low impact pulse raiser like a fast walk or a short cycle – move on to some dynamic stretches – bash out your main workout – cool down - and stretch it out .
Now you have the knowledge to make up your own mind about whether To stretch, or not to stretch.'
We all have those days where our motivation to workout is slacking and we are battling with our brains - fighting off excuses, and trying to find the light to get our butts into gear!
But don’t panic – I have compiled a ‘Fight Not Flight’ list of ways to help you stay on track, get out and achieve your workout!
FIGHT – NOT – FLIGHT
#1 Workout with a friend – if you arrange when and where to work out with a buddy, you will be less likely to skip or bail knowing you’re in it together!
#2 Plan your work outs – by planning your work outs for the week you won’t find yourself stuck wondering what you ‘want’ to do. You’ve already decided what Monday’s session will be, so it’s less to think about, just get on and do it. This will also help to battle the ‘I Don’t Have Time’ excuses. By planning your week, you make time.
#3 Go to a class – classes are fantastic ways of getting your daily exercise in. You can go along alone or with your mates to a class that has already been created for you. Little thinking is involved and as far as your motivation is concerned, all you need do is turn up, the atmosphere and music will do the rest. You can even switch onto auto-pilot mode and just enjoy the ride.
#4 Look good – make sure your workout wardrobe is something you enjoy wearing. By having clothes you love and want to wear, it will make it easier to change out of those work clothes after a long day or out of your PJs on a cold November morning.
#5 Get a Personal Trainer – a tailored workout plan created specifically for you and only you, your own motivational trainer who works for you, you’re paying for it – you’re unlikely to throw money down the drain by not turning up and making excuses - you will learn, you are in safe hands and you will work harder and reach levels you wouldn’t push yourself to on your own.
#6 You will feel better – if you’ve had a stressful day at work or you are feeling blue, working out will make you feel better. Not only does your body feel better, but it allows you time to get away from all that stress and negativity and just spend some quality time with yourself. If you view your workouts as time to de-stress and reflect, you will be eager to get in that gym or out on the roads for your run – it won’t even cross your mind to make excuses.
#7 Get into a routine – they say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. By repeating a new activity over and over for a period of time, you are slowly ingraining it into your routine. Once you’ve stuck it out for a couple of weeks, you won’t think twice about keeping it up. You’ve already proved to yourself you can, so there is no reason not to continue.
#8 Set Goals – by setting yourself goals you are giving yourself something to aim for, something you want to achieve, a reason for working out. Examples of goals you can set yourself are: entering a race (5k, 10k, triathalon, tough mudder etc), a weight you wish to reach, a personal best time or weight, a beach body.
#9 Think positively – at the end of the day, you and only you are going to get yourself through your workouts from day to day. By thinking of how good you will feel afterwards and how great you’ll feel in the long run, you are making your workouts much more attractive and important. Look back at where you were a couple of weeks ago - how much your fitness and abilities have improved. Be proud of yourself and keep thinking positively about how amazing your body is, what it has achieved and what can be …
Keep Training !