I’ve touched on stretching before in our blogs but it holds its place such that I wanted to go in to it again. The science behind stretching and why it is important has changed over the past few years. Instead of thinking of stretching as simply a way to get more flexible (which isn’t a bad thing by the way), think of it as part of your recovery. Specifically, stretching after we workout.
When we work out, we break down muscle fibres. That’s great but it is not what is going to make us better. Rest and recovery are when the “repairs” happen and that leads to the growth and adaptation. Stands to reason then, that rest and recovery are the most important part of our fitness. After your WOD, you have challenged and crushed every single muscle in your body. All that activity leaves the muscle hypersensitive and all wound up to ready to rock and roll. It has shortened and is ready to fire again. Just leaving them in this state decreases circulation to the area. Circulation is our body’s natural way of “flushing”. blood flows to the area and takes away the toxins created during exercise and replaces it with oxygen and other good things required to start the healing process. While we get away with not stretching after a workout, our recovery would benefit from spending even a few minutes stretching before continuing on with our day. While we aren’t going to see any crazy performance increases from doing so, it is going to help speed up our recovery process by reducing soreness the next day or two days later. Less sore means being able to move well the next workout and that obviously has it’s benefits.
We don’t need to spend a whole long period of time stretching. Taking even 5 or 10 minutes after to stretch the major muscles groups utilized will go a long way. Think of the workout and what was predominantly used; “pusher” or “pullers”. Sometimes it might be both and that’s ok. Think hips, back, shoulders, chest and legs. Stretch them accordingly.
Stretching after the workout should be done as “static stretching”. This is the old school “hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds” kind of thing. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Think back to high school phys ed class and go from there. We shouldn’t feel “pain” when holding the positions. We want to stretch the muscle out to relax it. Stretching to the point of pain will just excite the muscle further and not help your cause in the least. Dynamic stretches, like we use in our warm up, with bouncing or rocking are also effective to some degree. As a rule though, try and save those for warm ups to get things moving and muscles firing through full range of motion.
Spending just a few minutes after each class to stretch out those muscles might be an important part of your training that you are overlooking. Make a commitment to do it after the next five or six workouts and see what happens. You might just be surprised.