http-equiv='refresh'/> Global Therapies: Stretching part 3

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Stretching part 3

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Ok, this is starting to become a bit of an epic in terms of parts. I apologise for that, but hopefully you're beginning to see why I can't really answer "why should I stretch" in an easy and simplistic way, there is quite a bit to talk about.

One of my favourite quotes is this, it is a conversation between a previously injured runner and his therapist
"when can I start running again?"
"when you can walk efficiently and effortlessly"

Yes, you can go off and run before you are back to walking well, but your days as a good athlete, or at least, your days at your current level will be numbered.
Cumulative stress and strain can and will take you down.

The question to ask before you ask "why should I stretch" is "where do I feel tight"? Don't just think about you sitting there at your desk/ on you sofa/ on the train, think about your daily movements, what you can do, and what you have to modify in order to do it. When you put on your t-shirt, or shirt, does one arm go in easier than the other? Could that be a shoulder capsule that needs stretching? When you put on your socks, can you stand up and put them on, is one easier than the other? Do you have to lie down because you aren't flexible enough? Think about how that might affect your sport, or your life in other areas... that's the hip joint that isn't flexible enough. I've just read a study that shows pro golfers have approximately 10% or more flexibility in hip rotation than amateurs, and are thus able to get greater club speed. That's through flexibility.

I hate to hammer it home, but one final point for all you power lifters.
Poor hip mobility and then squatting, or lifting heavy will do one thing. It will compound the hip joint tightness because you are adding intensity, frequency and duration. This will lead to greater compensation in other areas, and good form will become difficult to maintain.
Bad form uses more calories yes, but the accumulative training effects are a bad thing.

Braces for knees, hips, arms, shoulders and medications in the form of pain relief are good when used appropriately.
However, they are most often used inappropriately as a crutch for people who have not addressed underlying movement patterns, imbalances and compensations.
Find imbalances, find imperfections, work them out. Strengthen that which needs to be strengthened so that the whole organism works together as one. Not just the big muscles, but also the small stabilising ones. Keep the flexibility because once you lose that, the body becomes less able to work in harmony with itself.

work out what lacks flexibility in day to day movements.
work out what lacks flexibility in your sport, what lets you down, what could make you faster, more powerful, more agile.
work out what you have injured in the past, no matter how trivial, see if it has affected the way you move, the way you think and the way you do things. Do you unconsciously protect one side of you, or have a foot that turns in or out because of a previously (forgotten) twisted ankle?
Roll out on a foam roller and see what hurts - that is often a really good indication of where trigger points and scar tissue have accumulated and places that would benefit from being stretched.
What feels tight? What doesn't? (beware if you are hyper-flexible, as sometimes the muscles "feel" tight, like you need to stretch, but the joint capsule will be compromised if you actually try to go all the way to the end of the stretch).

Yes, all this takes time, and it takes patience. But so does training. This is as important as that final hill climb of the day, as important as a PR, as important as a new set of wheels (and less expensive), and as important as the 3rd session down the wall this week. In fact its more than that.
If you lack flexibility, it may well be the thing that gets you through the plateau you have been training at.
Equally, it might well be the thing that enables you to have a pain free life, ending compensation patterns, muscular stiffness and annoyance at not being able to do things because of your body.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record of a rabid missionary now.
Again, you don't have to do this, I'm not advocating it as the be all and end all, but it might be something that you want to consider. Next blog I'll write some stuff about the different ways of stretching, why some people start and feel like they are losing their flexibility- and thus stop, why it sometimes hurts (it shouldn't), and other bits and bobs like that.
Again, if you have any comments or issues with any of this, please post, discussion is the way forward.

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