"Most people flee the gym after their 30 minutes of cardio," says Gina Ryan, Personal Trainer and Manager of the Well for Life Center at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. "They forgo stretching because they don't have time, they forget or they don't understand its importance."
Here, Ryan answers some questions about stretching and flexibility.
A: When you stretch, you lengthen your muscles, or allow your muscles to have some "give." You also give your joints a greater range of mobility. Stretching helps make everyday activities easier, prevents injuries and helps make your muscles longer, leaner and stronger.
A: You've heard the term "use it or lose it." Well, this is the case with your muscles. They will become shorter and tighter as you age, but only if you don't put them to good use. If you stretch regularly, you'll still be able to indulge in daily life without risk of injury. You'll be better equipped to lift that box, or quickly reach for the vase falling off the counter without pulling a muscle.
Q: HOW DOES STRETCHING KEEP YOU SAFE FROM INJURY?
A: Without flexible muscles, any sudden movement could cause injury. When you stretch a muscle, you lengthen the tendons, or muscle fibers, that attach it to the bone. The longer the fibers, the more you can increase
the muscle in size during strength training. Flexible muscles become stronger muscles.
Q: HOW CAN I FIT A STRETCH INTO AN OTHERWISE BUSY DAY?
A: Consider your lifestyle and determine when you could fit in a few minutes of stretching. For example:
A: Ideally, you should warm your muscles up with a little exercise before stretching. Think of your muscles like a cold rubber band. You'll want to get it moving a little before you stretch it. A rubber band can only take so much until it tears. The same is true for your muscles.
Walk a couple of minutes and get your blood moving before you stretch. Do most of your stretching after your workout, when your muscles are warmed up. It will help increase your flexibility and decrease any soreness.
Q: HOW FLEXIBLE DO I NEED TO BE?
A: Some people are just naturally more flexible than others. You don't have to be able to do the splits to be flexible. You just need to be as flexible as your lifestyle dictates. Don't get discouraged if it seems you're not as flexible as the next person. Simply work on your own level of flexibility.