I was recently asked what stretches I do before starting my workout. I explained my simple warm up routine of some aerobic exercises and yoga flows, only to get the response of “But what stretches do you do?”
It’s become a new debate in the fitness world. Where and when and how does stretching fit into the fitness game?
It certainly doesn’t count as a warm up, though many people equate the two. My brain automatically switched the two when I answered “What’s your favorite stretch before workout” with what my warm up routine was. As soon as my mind heard “before workout” it went to warm up. So I understand the confusion.
Don’t Make Cold Muscles Extend
The important thing to get into your head and keep there is that you never want to stretch cold muscles. When you see athletes going through runners’ stretches before lining up for a race, or any other such routine, you need to be aware that they have already done an extensive warm up. They are stretching muscles and joints that have been worked over already, not just throwing a massive twist and pull at cold tendons.
Stretching feels good, but when you go through a routine before your workout it’s highly likely that you will cause small tears and pulls that will turn into large injuries when you go to lift a heavy weight or sprint.
Warming Up Your Body Is What Your Warmup Is All About
Activating the fluid in your joints, raising your heart rate, and raising your core body temperature should be the goals of a warmup.
So instead of a stretch, try using a foam roller to massage some of those muscles you’re going to use so that they are relaxed and ready to work. Walk at a quick base, or jump on an eliptical and go at an easy pace until you start to break a sweat. Once you’ve reached that point you are truly “warmed up” and ready to workout!
Save Your Stretch For When It’s All Over
After you have had a good effective workout, trying going to the stretch cage. Saving your stretches til after your workout means your joints and muscles are ready to move, and prevents potential injuries. Just be careful to remember that when you are fully warmed up you may seem more flexible than you actually are, so take it easy when you reach over to grab your toes.