I was laying on the floor doing “the hundred”…you know, that weird motion that starts nearly every pilates class where you flap your arms up and down and try to breathe even though you want to die?
Well. I was doing “the hundred” and the DailyBurn instructor mentioned that Joseph Pilates taught his instructors to start every class with this exercise because it warms the entire body. Pumping your arms up and down with your legs in the air, warms your core, gets your blood moving, and helps to warm up all of your muscles.
This makes sense! Pilates is all about strength and stretching. They go hand in hand…but only if you’re warm. Starting my pilates workout with a full body warm up (painful though it may be) makes sense then.
Muscles have a unique characteristic known as elasticity that allows for the ability to lengthen and contract. The physical makeup of your muscles is what allows for length changes without injury. The largest unit of your muscle is known as a fascicle. Fascicles are made up of a large number of smaller components known as myofibrils, according to “Skeletal Muscle Circulation.” Each myofibril is composed of bands called sarcomeres. Sarcomeres are further made up of overlapping thick and thin fibers known as myofilaments. During the stretching phase of your muscle there is a decrease in the amount of overlap experienced at the myofilament level – this allows your muscle fibers to lengthen. Conversely, increased overlap of the myofilaments creates a muscular contraction.” source
In plain people speak, your muscles are like rubber bands. You don’t pull a rubber band to its full, maximum stretch the first time you use it. You pull it in little tugs to “warm it up” first.
Just like a rubber band, warming up your muscles before you stretch will help you avoiding injury. Most fitness professionals (the ones that understand physiology) will tell you to do a light cardiovascular warm-up for 5-10 minutes. Interestingly, that’s how long a “hundred” should last. About 5 minutes.
There is a method to the madness!
Even if you’re not a pilates fan, stretching is very important to your fitness routine. Y’all. I cannot stress this enough.
I used to skip stretching.
It was so very easy to make excuses:
- I’m late.
- I’m tired.
- I’ll do it later.
- It doesn’t matter.
- I already worked out, what does it matter?
But it matters. Oh boy does stretching matter.
Flexibility is a HUGE part of your overall fitness. The more I stretch, the better I feel. And I bet that you’ll find you feel better too.
Plus, the more you stretch, the more you’ll able to do and the further you can able to push yourself.
Stretching Helps Muscle Recovery
I think that it is very important to remember this: muscles need to be stretched in order for them to grow and improve. And they need to stretch to repair themselves if you’ve been pushing yourself hard.
Another benefit to stretching? A greater range of motion, which means that you are far less likely to injure yourself. Now, I’m not a doctor. I’ve learned this through personal, and painful, experience. And I didn’t learn it overnight, either.
You Could Hurt If You Don’t
There are times when I should have stretched and didn’t…and ended up hurting myself. And I’m sure that I’m not alone. Can you think of a time when you’ve forgotten to stretch (or skipped it) and ended up hurt?
When I first started working out, I was too “busy” to take the time to stretch. But then I sprained my ankle and pulled a muscle in my calf…all in the same day. Because I didn’t stretch. I’m going to say that again.
I got hurt because I didn’t stretch. I don’t want you to get hurt, too!
Dynamic Stretching Vs. Static Stretching
This may surprise you, but there are 2 different types of stretching: dynamic and static. Both types are very important to building healthy muscles.
Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching your body needs to warm up. It’s stretching through motion, moving while you warm up your muscles. Like my pilates workout I mentioned earlier.
First things first: never do static stretches as a warm up. You will end up hurting yourself because your muscles are cold.
Static stretches are stretches that you hold for a longer period of time. You want to do your static stretching (long, deep stretches) AFTER you workout so that your muscles are warm.
When you are doing static stretches, it is important to do them for at least 30 seconds. Your muscles have a catch in them that will prevent you from injuring yourself, so take a little extra time. After 15 seconds, you can go a little deeper into your stretch, but be sure to stop if anything hurts. Static stretches can be uncomfortable, but they should never be painful.
Aren’t sure where to start? PopSugar has a great 10-minute full-body stretching video that is awesome after any workout.
Post Stretch Care
After you’ve stretched out your new and improved muscles, it’s important to make sure that you allow them to rest. If you’re sore, I strongly recommend that you use soothing essential oils to help you move easier. Some of my favorite go-to post workout oils are:
- Peppermint oil
- Wintergreen oil
- Deep Relief
- Cool Azul
- Deep Relief Cream
These awesome oils will work to not only stop the aching that comes with post workout soreness, but they actually support your body’s ability to heal and repair itself. That’s pretty cool, right? If you don’t have oils in your house, you need some. At least the ones I’ve listed above.
Ready to get started? Go here to get your starter kit.
Do you ever forgotten to stretch?