The active man or woman does not want to pause before running or cycling to stretch. It’s a pain to stop mid-way or afterwards to release tight muscles.
You know they will feel good after a long rest anyway, but there could be long-term consequences if you don’t flex these muscles before and after working out.
Take some time to think about the benefits of stretching.
A Chance to Circulate
When you haven’t been doing anything physical for a while, blood flow slows right down. Oxygen is not being transported rapidly or efficiently to your muscles because they have been inactive.
You were sleeping, typing, or driving. Many of the jobs we hold are sedentary, such as office work, driving a taxi or school bus. Moving from a sitting position to suddenly working out does not give the circulatory system a chance to catch up with this new plan.
What’s the big deal about circulation? You can breathe, can’t you? Blood is transporting a number of important elements through your body, one of which is oxygen.
Just breathing it in and out is not enough; oxygen must get to your organs and muscles. When these parts of your body receive adequate oxygen you don’t feel tired. If blood circulation is ineffective you have to breathe harder to send oxygen where it has to go. You won’t breathe so hard if you stretch first.
Every workout routine should start with a warm up. Warm muscles work better than cold ones, cold being inactive or perhaps literally chilled. Think of what you do when you are chilly: you want to curl up into a tight ball. That is what your muscles are doing too.
Cold muscles are generally contracted and hesitant to be pried open. As they contract, they stiffen and resist movement. Warming up, sending blood flow to the muscles, warms and softens the muscles. If you are hoping to elongate biceps and quads from their current bulky shape, learn to touch your toes.
Some people pack away a lot of miles on their bicycles or jogging trails by thinking about other things, distracting themselves from the work and potential boredom of a long straight route. Other athletes focus hard on their breathing, posture, stride, or pace. This requires considerable concentration and a tired brain simply will not perform.
Getting oxygen to the brain is important for this reason and brings us right back to stretching and sending blood flow to our gray matter. Mood improves too; that is, positivity about what you can accomplish.
After a workout, muscles are tired and frequently sore. There is a window of opportunity during which one can fend off a cramp and initiate recovery just by stretching. Use this time to lengthen muscles while they’re still warm and to push against their tendency to contract.
You won’t feel as sore after exercise if you cause tissue to lengthen so that you can maintain your usual posture throughout the day without pain. Circulation to the muscles also sparks a response to strain or inflammation at the cellular level. Let your body do what it is capable of rather than resorting to pain killers later or having to visit a therapist for massage, chiropractic, or physiotherapy work.
Consequences of an Inflexible Attitude
What if you don’t stretch before and after strenuous activity? Here are some likely consequences which you might not experience right away but could be waiting for you in the weeks to come.
One of them is strain you won’t recover from. The resulting pain could leave you on the sidelines, losing training hours and conditioning. It is possible to cause more severe injury by snapping tissue and fiber that has been pulled too tightly.
Recovery from this kind of injury takes a lot more time than recovering from inflammation with a few days on the couch or soaking in the hot tub more often.