These last few months I have been thinking a lot about what we do (or “should do”) before we start working out. I haven’t been much for stretching before exercise, although I definitely include a lot of stretching in my post-workout regimen (along with regular self-massage). There are numerous articles about whether stretching actually helps you or not. I won’t go there right now, but I will address what we probably should be doing before we go out for that walk/ride/run/swim.
My first inspiration, in my rethinking the pre-excersice warm-up, was a New York Times article that one of you out there brought it to my attention. It talks about why dynamic stretching, as opposed to static stretching, should be what we are doing before we workout. According to the article, static stretching (holding a stretch) does nothing to warm up our muscles/tendons and improve their ability to preform. But dynamic stretching does. The article gives 3 examples of dymanic stretches, and in the last month I have been trying them out before I go out for my daily run. Actually 2 of the exercises I was already familiar with (scorpion and handwalks) having been introduced to them by my trainer Erica Napuli (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Evolution Fitness.
My feedback: they are fun to do, and they really do seem to help warm up my muscles. However, I also use the stick before I run. So that nice loose feeling in my legs at the beginning of my run, might be due to the stick, the dynamic stretches or both. But regarless, I probably will continue with these dymanic stretches.
The second experience that is helping shape my pre-exercise thinking, is my exposure to Resistance Stretching. Gary Gurney (Certified Rolfer at Rolfing Structural Integration) was generous enough to introduce this form of pre-exercise stretching to me. Resistance Stretching is basically contracting a muscle as it is being stretched. Dara Torres used this method of stretching in her Olympic training. After the Olympics Gary became interested in this type of stretching, has been trained in preforming and teaching of Resistance Stretching, and he is now using it to help athletes here in Portland. He recently has introduced Resistance Stretching to the Bowdoin Swim team with great success, and continues to spread the word.
Being curious to see if this really works, I have been stretching my persistent tight left hamstring using this method. I’ll use Resistance Stretching before or during a run if/when my hamstring feels tight. And amazingly, it has really helped. Check out “Stretch Like Dara” if you are interested.
This is just the beginning of my quest to discover the best way to warm-up for events/workouts. So, more later on Resistance Stretching, as well as other pre-workout warm-up info. All just to keep you as healthy as possible, and preforming your best.