25 September 2012

Stretchamacate!

New York City Pride 2012... is over, now put some clothes on!

Summer was officially over three days ago, folks, which means no one should be walking around in shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. Autumn has graced us with her chill breeze and falling leaves which means y'all should really be prepping yourselves before, during, and after every workout. The change in temperature means a slight change in your routine so, if you haven't already been doing so, properly stretching your muscles out before and after each workout will help keep you limber, injury-free, and not as achingly sore as I currently am for not following my own advice this afternoon.

I'm a huge advocate for stretching. I'm a ballet dancer, how could I not be in total support of one of the most important components to my practice? I know enough physically active people, however, who either dread or completely ignore doing so in and out of the gym. I'm not telling y'all to break out into a split and straddle stretch every day, but it is important to keep your muscles well lubricated before jumping into a superset. It's even more important now that the temperature is dropping as muscles are more likely to be tight in such conditions, leaving you prone to injury.


One of the things I definitely wanted to incorporate into this specific blog posting was an instructional video of my favorite and most effective stretches but as I was doing them within the comfort of my living room my roommates suggested that it may be best if I simply describe them instead.
"Yeah, that just looks like softcore porn." 
 Jo-vanni Roman, roommate and asshat
Tailor your stretching routine to the activity you're about to perform, starting with basic stretches and following up with more dynamic stretches that reflect said activity. My favorite stretches include the forward lunge for the hip flexors, transitioning to a quadriceps stretch by taking your back foot in hand and pulling it toward your body, and then a half-split. Rolling your neck in both directions to also loosen that area, as well as calf stretch, full horizontal and vertical split, and saddle stretch are also included in my basic warmup.


A really useful tool to have in your gym bag is a foam roller. I recently purchased The Grid from Trigger Point Performance Therapy (http://tptherapy.com/) and can't say enough amazing things about it. Self massage with a foam roller is a really good way to improve range of motion and break up scar tissue and adhesions in your muscles, allowing for more efficient contractions. It's important to note that finding a painful spot on your body may yield the discovery of an adhesion, staying on it for a few seconds and proceeding to roll on helps to release the tension there.

Recognizing the difference between good and bad pain is key to stretching because, like overtraining, over-stretching really does more damage than good. One of the main complaints I hear from people in regards to the lack of stretching exercises in their regimen is because it oftentimes hurts to do so - maybe if y'all stretched more before and after your workouts these aches and pains wouldn't be so chronic and problematic, now would it?

One final word before my public service announcement comes to an end is that inflammation is absolutely necessary for any wound to heal. Crazy, right? It's often thought that minimizing inflammation after an injury with ice and anti-inflammatory drugs is the way to go. While it's true that R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) should still be applied, inflammation is essential for the regeneration of damaged muscle tissue. Inflammation releases a powerful anabolic hormone known as IGF-1 which is vital in tissue repair and the reestablishment of tissue blood flow. The use of anti-inflamatory drugs should, therefore, be used sparingly and only enough to reduce pain, but not to eliminate inflammation.1

1 (Journal Federation American Societies Experimental Biology, 1 October 2012)

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