Fitness Focus: Stretching for Flexibility Stretching is a very important part of any fitness routine. Many people know that stretching is necessary for flexibility and increased range of motion. We often complain about tightness and not being able to move like we would like. Yet, we often overlook stretching in favor of the more “glamorous” calorie-burning cardio or muscle-toning strength work. After all, isn’t that why we work out in the first place?…to burn calories to firm up those muscles? Of course cardio and strength work are necessary and important for our overall health and well-being. BUT.. this does not mean that stretching has no place in our routine. The benefits of stretching include: flexibility, increased range of motion, better circulation, improved posture, stress relief and coordination. Why do we do this? Why do we avoid something that has so many positive benefits for us? Perhaps we feel we don’t have the time or patience. Other times we may avoid stretching because, well, it’s not always “pleasant”. In order for stretching to be productive, we must place some tension, some resistance on our muscles and then we must hold the stretch long enough for it to work. This is often seen as time-consuming and uncomfortable… and, let’s face it, we often want to get going on the cardio or strength training, get it over with, and move on! My fitness focus for you today is that you will give stretching a chance. It takes some time, practice, and patience, but soon you will begin to feel more flexible, move more freely, stand taller, and do so without stress. This increased comfort will, hopefully, encourage you to continue to “stretch out” even more!
Here are some tips for stretching: (from Stretching 101 by Laura Inveraity at about.com)
Proper Stretching Technique
It is essential to practice proper stretching techniques. Doing so will allow you to avoid any unnecessary injury. Tips to proper stretching technique include the following:
- Warm up first
Stretching muscles when they’re cold increases your risk of pulled muscles. Warm up by walking while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for five minutes.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds — and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area. That can seem like a long time, so wear a watch or keep an eye on the clock to make sure you’re holding your stretches long enough. For most of your muscle groups, if you hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds, you’ll need to do each stretch only once.
- Don’t bounce
Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears (microtears) in the muscle, which leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. The scar tissue tightens the muscle even further, making you even less flexible — and more prone to pain.
- Focus on a pain-free stretch
If you feel pain as you stretch, you’ve gone too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Relax and breathe freely
- Don’t hold your breath while you’re stretching
- Stretch both sides
Make sure your joint range of motion is as equal as possible on each side of your body
- Stretch before and after activity
Light stretching after your warm-up followed by a more thorough stretching regimen after your workout is your best bet
Faith Focus: Stretching our “Faith” Zone- Do you have a “comfort zone” for your faith? You know, certain parameters where you feel comfortable being open, sharing, and reaching out in your faith? Are there places where you move about freely only to tighten up in other places, feeling constricted by your surroundings? We often think about going outside our “faith” comfort zones: we’re going to share the Gospel with someone, invite a friend to Bible Study (hey, maybe even just TELL somebody we go to Bible Study!). We all have things we want to do with our faith, but we feel uncomfortable. Perhaps we feel like we don’t have the time or patience. We’re not ready. We might even be afraid it will hurt us in some way. Will we say or do the right thing? Will we alienate a friend? Will expanding our comfort zone impede on someone else’s comfort zone? What are we to do about this? How can we increase the flexibility of our actions of faith? Note: I am NOT saying that our faith or God’s Word, can be manipulated to increase our flexibility. However, I believe we can become more flexible in how we share our faith. We do this, by stretching out. That’s right, we must place slight pressure on our comfort zones. Gently, yet firmly, we make ourselves stretch out longer, reach out farther. Not enough to strain or hurt ourselves, but just enough to move us into a new place, to increase our range of motion. We reach out further into the world to share our faith. Although we might experience some slight tension, the benefits of our flexibility, moving more freely in faith, standing taller, without stress, will make us more comfortable in this new “zone”. I pray that this week we will be flexible enough to reach out, beyond our comfort zone, and share the story of Christmas in a new way.
Here are some “techniques” for proper stretching:
1. Remember that stretching out toward others with your faith requires that you first stretch out toward God. “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.” (Job 11: 13-15)
2. Sometimes God will tell us when it is time to stretch out. Pray that you will feel His “gentle tension” on your heart and respond with obedience. ” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored.” (Luke 6:10)
3. Perhaps you are in a period of doubt in your faith. Is God calling you to stretch out in your faith, to reach beyond your comfort zone, not only to touch others, but that you might experience Him, touch Him and believe? “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
Acts 17:27 ” God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”