Early on in my education, I had the privilege to work with Eamon Coghlin* – World Class Runner. This is what Eamon said about stretching: “Running without stretching is like driving a car with the brakes on!”
I’ve adapted Eamon’s quote: “Living without stretching is like living with your brakes on.” Poor flexibility is the result of most serious injuries. Some people believe we get “stiffer” with age. Not true. In reality, we get less active with age. Feeling “tighter” is a result of being sedentary.
Consider this – have you ever sat in a movie theater or on a plane for a couple of hours and found your muscles feeling “stiff”? You didn’t become 2-hours older and therefore 2-hours tighter. You were simply inactive for 2 hours. During that time, your body continues to produce metabolic waste. Waste that is ordinarily flushed out through the circulatory system. Restricted movement slows down the circulatory system allowing metabolic waste to build up in our muscles and connective tissue thereby causing our tissues to become “congested”. Once we start moving again, the circulatory system has a chance to flush stagnant metabolic waste out of our tissues and we soon feel “looser”.Stretching releases metabolic waste out of our tissues much like wringing a soaked towel. Here is another misunderstanding about flexibility: Stretching loosens “things” up! Not exactly. Metabolic waste is “loosened” into the circulatory system but none of our muscles become looser or longer when we stretch. If tissues become looser, stretching would be counter-productive and our joints would dislocate. Stretching actually excites the nervous system allowing our muscles to be more responsive with a newly increased range of motion.
The key to stretching is frequency. The more often we stretch, the more efficient and responsive our bodies become at responding to stretching. Unfortunately, most people do not make adequate time to stretch. I watch many people come into the gym and just start lifting heavy weights without spending a moment on stretching. Adding insult to injury, literally, they are setting themselves up for long-term tissue damage and pain.
The following pages in this section contain many samples of effective stretches you can and should try. Contact me if you have any questions or want more ideas.
(In 1983, Eamon set both the Indoor Mile Record (3:49.78) and became the Outdoor 5,000m World Champion.)
READ MORE ABOUT STRETCHING:
Online Stretches | Stretching Routine | Shoulder Stretch | Maintenance Stretching