I apologize for the minor hiatus. I think we all just needed a break from reality for a while. I still don’t feel right taking the time to write something like this, when so much is going on affecting my friends and family. This week’s topic I think is really important for both physical and mental health and really that’s what we need right now. If you think about the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, what comes to mind? I know when I open my eyes, the first thing I want to do is stretch from my fingertips to my toes, all the sleep out of my system.
Did you ever wonder why we do things like this? It’s almost a subconscious movement. When you both yawn and stretch in the morning, this process is actually called pandicualting. These acts do exactly what you think they do, wake up your muscles. You open your eyes and your brain might be awake, but most of your muscles have been inactive through most of the night. They just need a little jump start to get going. It also helps get your blood moving.
It’s one thing to stretch subconscious or involuntary, but it’s a whole other story to do it on purpose. There are many bonuses, both physically and mentally to stretching and we’re going to touch on a few of them.
“The best athletes in any sport take stretching very seriously before and after matches. Stretching is instrumental in any athlete’s physical success. – Jozy Altidore
Range Of Motion/Stiffness - Increasing and maintaining your range of motion can help prevent degeneration of important muscles over time.
A kind of stretching called static stretching, where a specific muscle group is stretched and extended for a specific amount of time is ideal for athletes wishing to maintain flexibility. Gymnasts and dancers really specify in this type of stretching. Dynamic stretching is a more movement based stretching. Things like high kicks, squats and lunges can be considered a form of dynamic stretching. Athletes who play basketball, baseball and sprinters will do exercises like this to keep from getting stiff before and after competition.
Reduce Injury – Although there’s no scientific evidence to back this up either way, to me it just makes sense. If stretching improves your range of motion and prevents you from getting stiff before and after exercise, the chance of you pulling a muscle decreases.
They do say, however, that stretching AFTER exercise is much better for you and your body than before exercise. Doing light cardio for 5 to 10 minutes prior to working out is better on your body. Stretching should be done when the muscles are already warm. Doing a lot of excess stretching can even lead to a reduction in muscle strength. Last week’s article was really geared towards weight training and for those that participate in that type of working out, stretching AFTER your workout is far better for you and your body.
“I think flexibility in general is something that needs to be reinforced, and not only baseball players but all sports.” – Jake Arrieta
Sharpen Your Mind - Stretching just doesn’t do your body good. Stretching also greatly benefits your mind as well. Stretching increases your blood flow and increased blood flow, means more blood is able to get to your brain. Stretching may cause you to want to rethink or see things more clearly that may have been cloudy before stretching. Stretching has also been known to improve mood. Hormones and endorphins are released into your body when you stretch. This regulates metabolism, insulin and your attitude.
Lastly and maybe most important. A lot has been going on over the last couple weeks. So often, we worry about our past mistakes and lose focus of the day in front of us. Taking a few minutes, stretching out your body and clearing your mind can allow you to refocus your mind and your energy to the present. Be aware of what’s going on around you and don’t let it split away.
You don’t have to go through this alone. You matter to me. I see you, I hear you, I stand with you. Keep going, keep fighting, stay strong.