Archive for Monday, May 22, 2006

Proper prep keeps you limber longer

May 22, 2006


Now that warm weather is finally visiting Kansas, it's important for people to learn how to warm up - when exercising, that is.

Proper stretching is key to ensuring flexibility and preventing injury.

"In the olden days, they said you should stretch before you work out," says Carrie Forster, general manager of Body Boutique, 925 Iowa.

These days, the advice is to perform some form of activity prior to stretching.

"You can do a jog or jumping jacks or run up and down the stairs to get your muscles warm first," she explains. "Then you need to stretch. You need to make it active stretches, not static stretches - nothing where you're holding it for 10 seconds. When you stretch like that, it's after your workout."

She says different stretches are appropriate for different activities. For instance, if you are doing an arm-dependent exercise such as baseball, boxing or lifting weights, you should first stretch the arms. Before you do any lateral movement, you want to stretch out the legs. If undertaking a gymnastics-type exercise, you should stretch out your wrists, ankles and back.

As for as how physically hard you should push yourself during stretching, it's normal to feel a little bit of discomfort, but sharp pain should be a sign to ease off.

"When getting to a stopping point, make sure whichever area that you are stretching you are holding your body in a proper form," says Pete Townley, lead personal trainer at Therapyworks, 1112 W. Sixth St. "Whenever you start to compromise that form - for example, if you're stretching a hamstring and your knee starts to bend - back it off a little bit because you're going too far."

Tools aren't a necessity during these routines, although a yoga belt (a 6-foot-long canvas belt) or body band (a jumbo rubber band with two handles) are occasionally helpful.

Most important, the trainers conclude, is the warm-down.

"A lot of people know you've got to warm up properly," Townley says. "If you've done some weight training or a long run, all the pounding and abuse you've put on your body could make your muscles potentially tense up to where you're tight and sore the next day. Stretching can help prevent that from happening or at least lesson the effects of that."

Benefits of stretching

The benefits of stretching, beyond improving flexibility, include: ¢ Enhanced physical fitness ¢ Enhanced ability to learn and perform skilled movements ¢ Increased mental and physical relaxation ¢ Enhanced development of body awareness ¢ Reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles and tendons ¢ Reduced muscular soreness ¢ Reduced muscular tension ¢ Increased suppleness due to stimulation of the production of chemicals that lubricate connective tissues ¢ Reduced severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) in females

Source: Michael J. Alter, author of "Sport Stretch"


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