Stretch or bust! (Guest post)

squirrel stretching

One other important thing I have learned working with personal trainers (see my post Rediscovering my Body: Personal Training) is the importance of stretching. I used to never stretch. Unless you count stretching for 30 seconds overall proper stretching. I used to go straight from doing nothing to exercise, and from exercise to shower. Heck, I am a busy girl and who has time for stretching, right?

Sometimes I feel like a Formula 1 but this is not because I feel high performance. Rather, I feel like I need a whole pit crew to keep me going and take care of my frailty (yes, Formula 1 cars are very fragile). I have a crew of massage therapist, chiropractor, and osteopath to keep the vehicle going and fix it when it needs it. But I have been forgetting the role of the driver in taking care of her vehicle. Stretching!!!

When I was a little girl, I used to really enjoy my grandparents’ yearly visits. Every summer, they came to stay with us for two weeks. For those two weeks, every morning I would do my exercises with my grandfather. He would turn on the TV to some American channel where women wearing leotards and their best smile would make us do various stretching and other light exercises for 30 minutes. Grandpa and I would do them together. Once we were done, grandma would bring us breakfast (an orange, a toast and a cheddar cheese sun for me) and we would watch The Price is Right.

My grandfather’s morning stretching routine was not only a vacation one. He did that every morning of his life. He was right. Stretching is good for you. Getting into a relaxed state and moving every limb gently, waking them up for the day to come is the best thing one could do for oneself. If one trains or engages in more strenuous physical activity more seriously than he did, daily stretching becomes an imperative as is the pre and post workout stretching.

For years I have disregarded stretching. I am very flexible. Who needs to stretch when one can touch their knees with their nose, right? Wrong. Or so my aching body has been telling me. When I picked up running again with my personal trainers in January, my right knee started bothering me again. I mentioned that to my massage therapist (pit crew member, see above) and she offered to work on my legs rather than my back. What she uncovered was a real mess, a situation which, as she said, has been building up for a long, long time. I suspect all the bike rides I have done over the years, ranging from 30 to 120 km, without stretching either before or after, are to blame. Also to blame are all the gym workouts, elliptical, stepper and other devices used without stretching whatsoever (or just a little, once in the shower). Other culprits: the jogging sessions wrapped up with mere walking, no stretching. All of that has generated issues for me that I could easily have avoided if I had stretched properly.

I have learned many things with my personal trainers. A very important thing I have learned is to start and end every workout with stretching. Dynamic stretching to start, static stretching to end. Just get those limbs ready for the effort, you will be better at it and then relax your muscles when you are done, you will feel better after it. In short: stretch or bust!