The importance of stretching

As many of you know, I do a weekly personal training session with Heather and I am finding this workout highly beneficial. I see results,  find myself motivated, and it is fun!  I love her sense of humour, and stories about her other clients and their progress. I supplement this activity with visits to a local gym and will participate in group exercise classes.  I particularly enjoy what is known as 'Body Pump.'  This class involves exercises using free weights that focus on all major muscle groups. To pump up the class, it is accompanied by music designed to motivate you to physical activity. Definitely not Brahms lullaby or classical concertos.  Actually, sounds like a mixture of Britney Spears and Boy Band rhythm, and is therefore not quite my genre of music.

Classes end with stretches to help lengthen out muscles that have been subjected to a hard workout. What always surprises me is that, for the stretching part of the hour, so many people duck out as if this is unnecessary activity. This tells me that most people do not truly understand the importance of stretching and see this as the unglamorous part of their physical training. The focus of most people seems to be on increasing cardio vascular capability and building muscular strength.

I love it when people don’t stretch because it is helping to build my clinical practice.  Bring on the weekend warrior!  If the muscles are strengthened and not stretched, they lack range of motion. Then all it needs is some often benign activity, perhaps a near slip on ice or bending down to tie a shoelace to cause a muscle strain. Think of a professional soccer player who is able to kick the ball half way down a football field. He can do this because he has well conditioned muscles that have strength and are stretched. The quads are a major muscle group allowing for extension of the leg. The hamstrings allow for the opposite action. However, if these muscles do not have full range of motion then injury will occur.

You might dismiss this information as irrelevant because you do not engage in sports or major physical activity. The reality is that you still need flexibility so that you can do the normal day to day activities without injury. So often when someone comes to me in pain I will ask them what they did that caused this. They may describe some movement that was very gentle as contributing to their malaise. It is possible that the injury was going to happen anyway because of a lack of physical condition.The gentle action was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The combination of my training sessions with Heather, attending 'Body Pump', as well as the yoga and Pilates classes at Healing on the Danforth have helped me gain much greater sense of body awareness. This has been key to my wellbeing.  

Wishing you all the best this holiday season. I will be at the clinic over the holidays with the exception of Christmas Day. So please some in for treatment and use up any remaining part of your 2013 benefit package.