Contrary to what Penny, Sheldon and Leonard’s friend on the Big Bang Theory believes
it is nooooot good to stretch before you run!
Or dance. Or walk. Or play basketball. Or play golf. You get the idea.
Unless you’ve already been dancing!
I’m in an experiment kind of mood, so go grab a rubber band and throw it in the freezer. Sometime next week (or next year) you can retrieve it and stretch it out.
Better yet (and more immediate) go digging through stuff you’re saving for your kids, or for scrapbooking later or the sales information in your glove compartment – that’s been held together by a rubber band for longer than you’ve had that Duran Duran t-shirt. Give that little guy a stretch.
Tearing or outright popping and breaking will probably be the result.
Your muscles are not entirely unlike these rubber bands.
Oh, yea, and another reminder that stretching cold muscles is not the best idea – it’s uncomfortable and your muscles don’t want to stretch. They don’t. They’re telling you they don’t.
What’s really cool is that they actually have a built-in defense mechanism to prevent tearing. Very simply what happens when you attempt to lengthen cold muscles is that when your muscles get to the breaking (or tearing) point, they shorten – instead of lengthen. The result is that your stretching gains you little to no ground and you could injure yourself.
Even if you’re doing your physical therapy flexibility exercises at home it’s vital to warm up before you stretch. Physical therapists will suggest that you use a heating pad on a small area (unless you’ve got one of those heavy canvas ‘blankets’ that heat up!) or that you take a hot shower to increase your circulation of blood to the area being stretched.
Now that you have warmed up your body, here’s another note about stretching:
Notice where you are feeling that stretch. You should be feeling it in the muscles belly – the middle of the muscle. If you feel the stretch in a joint, stop immediately. If the sensation goes away immediately, slowly go back into your stretch. Listen for the sensation of gentle pull in the middle of the muscle you are stretching.
In yoga classes it looks as if we are stretching before we are warm. The first several sets of Sun Salutations are to be done gently with the desired affect being a gradual increase of body temperature and blood circulation so that when your body is ready you will be ready to get the most from your practice.