Stretching or Flexibility?
Which is which? Are they the same?
Lets get it cleared up that stretching and flexibility are definitely different things.
Very basically, flexibility is your range of motion or how far you can stretch, reach or bend. Stretching refers to the things you do to increase your flexibility… simple. Disclaimer – improving your flexibility can take time and needs continual work – if you get to where you want to be don’t just stop or your muscles will tighten up again.
Personally, I think that everyone should work on stretching and flexibility regularly, whether you do lots of sports or not. The less you work on these, the more you can get injured. Whether you’re lifting weights (particularly if they’re heavy), running, or just going about your daily routine – getting your shopping out of the car, lifting a heavy bag or even just reaching up to get something out of the cupboard.
A lot of people think they don’t need to stretch, but it can improve your sporting and gym performance, daily activities, and even increase how much weight you can lift when working out.
Types of Stretching?
There are two main types of stretching which you might have come across. Firstly, dynamic stretching, which involves adding movement to your stretches – for example, walking lunges or side lunges. Secondly, a static stretch, which is essentially holding one stretch for a period of time – like touching your toes or holding a lunge position. Scientifically, there is a lot of debate about whether static stretching actually works or not but try it and see what is right for you!
When I’m training I prefer to warm up before I stretch and I always get my clients to as well. This could even be just 5 to ten minutes of quick walking or jogging. Doing this means that my muscles are already warm and ready to go. I know that I would be much more likely to injure myself if I stretched when I was cold. Generally, I find that when I am warm, I have more flexibility. It also tends to increases as the day goes on, so don’t be downhearted if you’re suddenly much less stretchy in the morning!
I also try to stretch as part of my cool down so my body doesn’t get confused as to what is happening to it! This is particularly relevant if you’re lifting heavy weights, doing high intensity or cardio training. If you stopped suddenly and just sat down for the next hour, your muscles would start to seize up, become tight and be really sore!
Ultimately, stretching shouldn’t cause you pain, but it should help to prevent injury and help to relieve any tension built up during, or after, your workout or run.