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Stretching Techniques

Stretching is probably one of the most overlooked forms of exercise, yet it enhances virtually everything that we do in life. Good flexibility helps to prevent physical injury, even in normal daily activities, and makes it possible for us to perform at our peak level of capability. Stretching is not stressful. It is peaceful, relaxing, and noncompetitive. It can be invigorating at the same time as it reduces stress. For the most part, it requires no special equipment, no special facility, and no special training. In some ways, it is a perfect form of fitness activity.

Why stretch

You should make stretching a regular part of your daily routine because it relaxes your mind and tunes up your body for everything else that you will do during the course of your day period you will find that regular stretching will:

Reduce muscle tension in make the body feel more relaxed

Improve coordination by allowing for freer any easier movement

Increase range of motion

help prevent injuries such as muscle strains.

Make strenuous activities like running, skiing, tennis, swimming, and cycling easier because it prepares you for the activity

Develop body awareness; as you stretch various parts of the body, you get to know yourself.

Feel good

When to stretch

Stretching can be done anytime you feel like it: at work, in a car, waiting for a bus, walking down the road, under a shady tree, or at the beach. You can even stretch first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. This is perhaps one of the most rewarding stretches and a great start to your day. One of the wonderful things about stretching is that your body will tell you when a stretch is needed. When you feel tense, stressed, or limited motion, a good stretch can be just what the doctor ordered. But, don't wait for your body to give you the signal. Reward yourself with regular stretching even before your body tells you you need it.

Personally, I have develop the routine of stretching first thing in the morning, after doing some basic warmup. I follow that up with a mid-day stretch and I end of the day just before bedtime with a relaxing stretch as I am winding down. My morning and evening stretch sessions take approximately 15 minutes. My afternoon or stretch session takes approximately 5-10 minutes.

How to stretch

Even though stretching requires no formal training, there are a few ground rules which will maximize both your results and enjoyment of your routine. Basically, you should be relaxed and engaged in a sustained stretch with your attention focused on the muscles being stretched. There should be no bouncing up and down and you should not stretch to the point of pain. If you stretch correctly and regularly, you will find that every movement you make becomes easier. It will take time to loosen up tight muscles or muscle groups, the time is quickly forgotten when you start to feel good.

When you begin a stretch, spend 10-15 seconds in each stretch. Stretch to the point where you feel mild tension, and relax as you hold the stretch. The feeling of tension should subside as you hold the position. If it does not, eased off slightly and find the degree of tension that is comfortable. You should be able to say, "I feel the stretch, but it is not painful." The easy stretch reduces muscular tightness and tension, and readies the tissues for the developmental stretch.

After the easy stretch, slowly move a fraction of an inch further until you again feel a mild tension and hold for 10-15 seconds. Be in control. Again, the tension should diminish; if not, eased off slightly. The developmental stretch is designed to increase your flexibility as you continue your routine.

While breathing will be discussed in another article, it is appropriately mentioned here since attention to your breathing can help to enhance your stretch routine. During a stretch session you're breathing should be slow, deep, and under control. Do not hold your breath while stretching. Breathing during your session helps you to relax, which will in turn relax the muscles you are stretching.

For additional information on stretching, please take a look at an excellent resource called "Stretching", by Bob Anderson. This book covers much of the material you see here, and also provides illustrative examples of a large variety of stretching exercises, including exercises specific to particular sports and recreational activities. It is an excellent reference and well worth your attention. Another excellent reference on stretching is "The Stark Reality of Stretching", by Dr. Stephen D. Stark. This book, while a little more technical, also provides excellent information and pointers on stretching. Some of Dr. Stark's approaches differ slightly from recommendations made by Mr. Anderson, but I have found both references to be very useful in my stretching routine.


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