[By Ray DeWitt]
What is the right way to start your day? Stretching? Warming Up? Or Nothing at all?
Which do you think is the correct answer? Chances are you aren’t sure and you are not alone! For the longest time, we have all been taught that static stretching was the proper way to loosen up our muscles for training or competition. But research over the past several years points to the fact that performing a static stretch prior to sport is not only ineffective but can be potentially dangerous! The evidence shows that aggressive static stretching can cause a reflexive tightening of a muscle and can also cause as much as a 30% decrease in muscle strength. This means that not only can static stretching create a window where you are more prone to injury, but may also negatively affect your sports performance. Conversely an active or dynamic warm-up done correctly will accomplish two things: increase blood flow to the muscles and tendons to loosen them up and increase the comfortable range of motion in your joints allowing you to work at your full potential.
Great now you know the answer to the above question, but it begs another question “how does that affect me? I’m just going to work; I’m not training or competing in a sport.” Just like a person participating in an athletic event throughout the day you are required to lift, push, pull, climb, etc. The amount depends on your specific job; warehouse, form yard, counter sales. All these require a lot of repetitive motion and you are subjected to the same sprains, strains and muscle soreness as an athlete. It becomes just as important for you to warm-up those cold muscles in the morning and after any break lasting longer than 20 min as it does for an athlete preparing for their training or competition.
To effectively get yourself ready for your day of safely moving form panels, bags of repair material, carrying that box of sealant for a customer, etc. and not injuring yourself in the process, taking the time to do a proper warm-up is the key. Start with about 5 min of light aerobic activity to get blood flowing to the tissue. Example routine would be as follows:
- 1 min light side to side shuffle of feet
- 1.5 min easy run in place
- 1.5 min jumping jacks (arms stay below shoulder)
- 1 min twist and pivot
- 30 sec each direction shoulder circles start small then increase size of circle.
- Follow with some light dynamic-stretches (slow controlled movements)
There are many more exercises you can find on the internet that will allow you to customize your warm up to your personnel work situation or specific area of your body that needs more attention.
Finally, the most common mistake that is made is that people will do static stretches before an activity and then do nothing afterwards. Static stretching at the end of the day will help elongate the muscle and improve flexibility, remember to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Never stretch to the point of pain when it comes to stretching the old “no pain, no gain” doesn’t apply here. You should stretch only to the point of slight discomfort and intensity.
There is an added benefit to warming up and stretching and that is to De-Stress. Our days can be hectic and that can cause stress and stretching can help.”As you know, your mind affects your body, and your body affects your mind,” says Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., and author of The Spectrum. During times of emotional stress, the muscles in our bodies contract. This is an adaptive response to acute stress, as it fortifies your ‘body armor’ so that in times of danger, if you get hit, for example, your muscles help to protect you.
However, in times of chronic stress, these same mechanisms that have evolved to protect us can create problems , such as chronically tensed muscles, especially those in the back and neck, which can predispose us to chronic pain or injury. Stress Management techniques such as relaxation techniques, time-management skills, exercise, and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle can help prevent this. Gentle stretching of chronically tensed muscles provides relaxation to the mind as well as the body.
Start your day the right way!