STRETCHING WITH MY KIDS
The first thing my three years old son Noah does when he wakes up, is to stretch in his bed. It is an instinct thing – during his sleep his muscles get tight and stretching helps him to lengthen them and increase blood circulation so he feels better. I believe that we can learn so many things from these little people who are listening to their body more that most adults do. Stretching is the perfect tool to stay flexible and make you feel relaxed. During our summer holiday, we had a stretching day. My daughter Zoe was more willing to do the exercises than my son as you can tell from his absence in the pictures!
But before you look at them, I want to debunk the myth that stretching prepares your body for exercise. Yes, there are still trainers out there telling you that you should stretch before and after your work-out in order to decrease the risk of injury. But: research has shown that all these theories you were fed about stretching are not true. “We could not find a benefit,” said Stephen B. Thacker, director of the epidemiology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Athletes who stretch might feel more limber, but they shouldn’t count on stretching to keep them healthy, he said in a report published in the American College of Sports Medicine journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It has also been shown that stretching before and after exercise does not lead to any additional protection from muscle soreness. Therefore, stretching does NOT reduce some of the mechanisms of muscle soreness, including damage to the ultrastructure of muscle, accumulation of calcium ions, cell inflammation, swelling and activation of pain receptors. Italian researchers studying cyclists even discovered that stretching is counterproductive. They found evidence that toe-touching stretches change the force-transmission properties of muscle fibers and alter the brain signals to muscle, reducing exercise efficiency by about 4 percent.
Having all this said, I still believe in stretching. Let me tell you when and why I stretch: With my Kickbox trainer Mikail, we warm up for 10 minutes and then stretch before we actually start our work-out. If I have a strength fitness day, I don’t stretch before starting, but I do stretch after I finished my program when my muscles are all warm. It makes me feel relaxed and I love the feeling of being able to do the splits like during my ballet lessons when I was 10 years old. I mostly use static stretching which is probably the most commonly used technique and is very safe and effective. A muscle or muscle group is gradually stretched to the point of limitation and then typically held in that position for 15–30 seconds. Most important for your safety is that you always warm up before you do the stretching. That is why Zoe and I went for a run first.