Ask Trainer Jake: When should I stretch?
Q: Should I stretch before or after my workout?
This is a commonly debated question in the fitness industry, and there has yet to be a final, conclusive answer. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an answer, but just keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. Let’s break things down and look at why we stretch, and then we will decide what method could work for you.
We are going to focus on two types of stretching. The first is called dynamic stretching. All this means is that you are going to be moving through your stretches. An example would be marching in place, or kicking your butt as you walk or jog. Sometimes a simple walk/jog for a few minutes will work. The point is that we are warming up the muscles, activating them and potentially moving them through their full range of motion. Blood will flow throughout your muscles and body essentially warming you up. If you think about your muscles as rubber bands, you don’t typically try to stretch them as far as you can without giving a few short pulls. You ease the tension in the band by warming it up. The chances of tearing a muscle or ligament is greatly decreased by this type of stretching so we presume this is the best choice for a before workout stretch. Take into account that some people need a longer warmup than others, so get a feel for your body and when you can start to move more freely and your range of motion in your joints has increased, you may proceed to the workout.
The other kind of stretch we are going to use is called a static stretching. This is just holding a stretch at it’s furthest range and holding it for 30-45 seconds. You may hold it longer if you feel necessary, but instead of going for 10 minutes, try and 30-45 seconds a few times with a rest period between each stretch. As we exercise, the use of our muscles makes them tight.The muscles will stay tight unless properly stretched, preferably directly after the workout. Tight muscles, if not stretched, will cause limited range of motion or less movement around your joint.
Stretching does take time, but it is well worth it if you want to continue exercising in the future.