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Mark Atwood
Stretching for being flexable. Really?
Physically, I'm pretty inflexable.

I can touch my toes only after going throught a round of contract, relax, lower cycle exercises that take over five minutes, and the next day I'm still as tight and bound up.

And stretching is painful. Someone is pulling my tendons out of my joints and setting them on fire type painful.

So really, does it really work?

Personal experience anyone, starting out inflexable and tight, and now super bendy, just from stretching and working out?
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lishablog From: lishablog Date: January 25th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, absolutely. It definitely works. Even if you just stretch for fifteen minutes a day you will, slowly, gain flexibility.

To really stretch out and get limber quickly, though, you need to do stretches more than just once a day and/or for a longer period. The question is, how bendy do you want to get? Serious dancers, acrobats and gymnasts often spend a half and hour or more on stretches before they even start doing anything else. They do another ten minutes to half an hour of stretches at the end of a session, depending on how many hours they worked.

Here are a few pointers I give my skating students:
When you are trying to increase your flexibility, hold each of your stretches for longer.

As you hold a position, don't bounce but do relax your body deeper and deeper into the stretch as much as you can.

Don't push past that "Ow, ow, ow!" stage. Go right up to the point where it starts to be a little uncomfortable and then breathe and hold. (People who are going for the super-flexibility fast sometimes DO push past that pain, but at the cost of frequent injury. I say it's not worth it.)

Have several stretches or yoga-like postures that you can do throughout the day to help you with the stretchiness. Depending on your target zones, the stretches or postures will be different, and you can't get away with doing all of them in line at the grocery store, but some of them you can. If you have some sort of personal trainer or coach that you can ask for suggestions on what postures will help your goals and can be done several times a day, do so.

Finally, don't just stretch before activities. Make sure that you stretch after activities. The stretching you do after a walk, a run, a climb or whatever will both help push your flexibility more AND prevent your muscles from tightening up post-workout.
awfief From: awfief Date: January 25th, 2009 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
This. I know it's a no-no, but I tend to substitute "warm-up" with stretching. Thus far I haven't hurt myself doing so, and the point of stretching is to warm up my muscles. I do this mostly because I am very impatient when starting my warm up and have hurt myself trying to stretch when I'm impatient.

Definitely stretch *after* a workout though, when your muscles are limber.

The real question is, is flexibility really a goal to seek? I have seen this question many times and many people have the vague notion that "more flexible=more good". I haven't seen any studies that correlate things like lung capacity or heart health to flexibility. The only thing I've seen is studies with a small sample set that conclude that stretching helps prevent the "old person shuffle" that some folks get. I'm not entirely convinced of that, since the "shuffle" seems to be more of a "can't bend the knee" problem which uses different (primary) muscles than touching your toes, and is more about joint pain than about inflexibility.

However, I haven't researched this much. Just enough to be comfortable with "can barely reach my toes, but that's not a sign I'm going to get a heart attack so I really don't care, since I am as flexible as I want to be."

of course, if there are certain positions during certain, ah, workouts that make you think "I need to become more flexible" then that's a great reason.
lishablog From: lishablog Date: January 25th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
There was an extensive study done in the UK that showed that it is not necessary to stretch before MOST sports activities as long as you warm up. In other words, if you are going to go running or play soccer or play baseball, not stretching before hand doesn't actually lead to more injuries AS LONG AS YOU WORK UP TO YOUR TOP EFFORT. So, run slowly at first, then gradually work your way into your cruising speed. Or, whatever the equivalent is for the sport you are taking on.

The exceptions to this rule are sports like acrobatics where flexibility is a key part of the sport and stretching IS warming up to what you are about to do. (ie, you should stretch a bit before you do that handstand with your legs in the splits and then put your foot down next to your hand with your back bent backwards...)

Also, if you have a specific injury that needs to be stretched to help with healing, that is a separate issue.

Where stretching DOES make a big difference in limiting injury and assisting in faster recovery is on the back side of a workout. Always, always, always stretch as part of your cool down.

Flexibility probably won't affect your heart health, but it will help you get around better longer. Flexibility by itself isn't a good goal because that leads to a whole other list of problems. Strength by itself can also lead to mobility problems of its own that come mostly from stiffness and lack of range of movement. Flexibility together with strength can make a huge difference in your quality of life, though. Strong and flexible muscles will help you to counteract the sources of mobility impairment both from injuries and from old age.

Yes, part of that is the shuffle walk, but there is more to it than that. Some of that joint pain comes precisely from the fact that the muscles are less supple, stiffer, and less willing to do what you want. Think about getting in and out of chairs. Ah, such an easy thing to do at your age! But when you are old?

Yeah,... you want to build up your strength and flexibility now so that the baseline from which you deteriorate as the years pass is better than your minimum comfort level.

Also, I can see where being flexible could be very useful for rock or wall climbing. You can reach a wider range of foot and hand holds if your body is less picky about what arrangement you scrunch it into. ;)

tanjent From: tanjent Date: January 25th, 2009 06:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Back in college I took an intro gymnastics course as an elective.

Started out stiff as a board, ended up being able to do the splits.

A few years ago I took yoga classes for a few months - also greatly helped flexibility.

I've since fallen back into the boardlike mode of life, but stretching regularly does in fact work for me.
singingnettle From: singingnettle Date: January 25th, 2009 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but it takes a lot of persistence. And you want to do it gently enough so that you're not miserable the next day.

I suggest the old-person/arthritis water exercises and yoga classes at the Y or suchlike.

Have you talked with a doc about the pain you get with stretching? The level of pain you're talking about is a little atypical, I think.
dip_thong From: dip_thong Date: January 25th, 2009 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I had the best results getting flexibility by simply sitting down and doing stretches whenever I was in a long line at a convention. I think frequent repetition is more important than getting particularly far in one session.

Also, it takes me longer than five minutes to be able to touch my toes. I am a tiny girl, you are a large man. I think you might be taking it a bit fast =)
From: vatine Date: January 25th, 2009 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I went from "stiff" to "pretty flexible" (and then sort-of stopped for 15 years and am now back to "pretty stiff"). Main thing is to do your stretches after exercise. I have started doing leg stretches whenever I come home from a bike trip and that seems to hve given back some leg flex.

Also, any sort of "builds muscle" exercise will slowly make you stiffer, unless you stretch after.
ladyallyn From: ladyallyn Date: January 25th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, my, yes. No 'just' stretching, mind, but hot yoga. Considering my manifest medical issues (some of which you're aware of) when I do Bikram yoga regularly I can improve my range of motion by more than months of physical therapy. It's good enough that my Physical Therapist has integrated it as the largest part of my PT regimen. The telling thing... after doing it regularly for a year or two and stopping for a few months then resuming, it's *real* easy to see the lost ground. The good news is, keep it up and get it back :-)
lumiere From: lumiere Date: January 25th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
hearts_treasure From: hearts_treasure Date: January 27th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I can't touch my toes when I start working out after a long while of not working out, but with in a week I can touch my toes and 2 wks bend right in half, hands on the ground with some room to spare.

Lawrence blames his inflexibility to rapid growth spurts in puberty and not stretching then.
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