I had a great opportunity to play a pretty wet and muddy game of football yesterday. It was fun but about an hour after the game when my muscles started to cool down a bit – “IT” happened.
The weather was a cold, my body was wet from the rain and I was starting to get stiff – very stiff. I could feel my hip flexors on the verge of seizing up. And the cold weather was not helping me relax at all!
I knew my muscles needed a good stretch so after some post game sushi I went home and took a nice hot shower. Now I had 2 reasons to take shower (pay attention to number 2).
1. Clean the mud off my body.
2. Increase my body’s temperature so my muscles could relax.
So at this point I think it’s safe to say that stretching is necessary. But is it… really?
For years, the dispute about stretching has been based on whether there are any solid benefits.
Stretching experts will tell you that it helps prevent injuries, soreness, improves performance, promotes body awareness, stimulates blood flow, and is mentally and physically relaxing.
Others argue that stretching is a waste of time, can actually cause injury, and does nothing to improve performance or prevent soreness or injuries.
Each side has a bunch of studies, reports, and untrustworthy evidence to support its claims.
One thing that I do know is that when my muscles are sore stretching definitely helps!
But both sides agree that stretching is more effective when you’re muscles are warmed up.
Doing a quick warm up or taking a hot shower will increase blood flow to your muscles helping to decrease any stiffness and making your muscles more flexible. (hence the reason for my hot shower).
Think of your muscles like taffy. When taffy is cold, it’s stiff and brittle but when you warm it up, it becomes more pliable and is easier to stretch. This is the same thing with your muscles, As you warm up, your muscles become more pliable and you’ll be able to stretch them easier.
Ideally I should’ve stretched a bit after the game to relax my muscles ( but staying out in the rain was the last thing I wanted to do) – but I didn’t, instead I sat down in the car and also sat down to eat which made the stiffness worse – trust me I’m paying the price for it right now!
Even after you finish your workouts you should take the time to stretch before your muscles totally cool down.
So take this as one of things where you learn from someone else’s mistake. Hopefully you’ll be a little smarter than me when it comes to stretching your muscles.
Oh and if you’re wondering….we lost the game. But we had a helluv a good time!