2001-02-17 / Sports

Fitness Forum

Fitness Forum

By Shaun Ruskin

QUESTION

Dear Shaun,

Last week you briefly spoke about warming up and stretching before beginning each workout. Well, I am probably the most nonflexible person in the world, and I was wondering if you could speak a little further on the topic, and really give me an idea on how to warm up, stretch, and become more flexible.

Joe

ANSWER

Sure thing Joe, as always I’m here to help, something I truly hope that I’ve accomplished in the past nineteen columns, this being my twentieth. I’ve been informing you wonderful people on the three factors to good health and great shape (cardiovascular training, strength training and diet). Consequently, everything that has to do with exercising and working out, in one way or another, stems from one of those factors. So let’s start with the warm-up.

It is extremely important to perform a 5-10 minute warm up before cardiovascular training (walking, jogging, biking, etc…), strength training (lifting weights), and stretching. A warm up is called a warm up because it means just that. You’re warming up your body to prepare it for the exercise that will be following. Warming up, for your purposes, should consist of large full body movements, like jumping jacks or walking in place with your arms swinging. Basically you want to increase your body temperature, and the blood flow to your heart. So, that’s that. Let’s move on to stretching and flexibility, where you don’t necessarily have to workout to participate.

There are a lot of different reasons why someone would want to become more flexible. Most of which are fitness related, some which are not. But for now, being that this is a family newspaper, I think we should keep our minds in fitness, and out of the gutter, okay? Great. With that being said, from a fitness standpoint, flexibility helps prevent injury, increases your range of motion, improves your posture, and keeps your body feeling loose and agile. So how do you do it?

Ever watch television and see baseball or basketball players doing some insane looking stretching. Pulling their arms behind their back as they swing their body all over the place like psychopaths. They’re doing this because they’re professionally trained athletes. We’re not, so we don’t and won’t.

We’re going to stretch our upper and lower bodies like they do, but when we do so; things are a bit different. We very slowly find the stretch, in the furthest most comfortable position (in other words, before it starts hurting), and hold it there for 30 seconds, then release. Make sure you’re not bouncing and moving at all. It’s called a static stretch.

All the major muscles in your body can and should be stretched, at the beginning, and the close of every workout. If you want, toss a few in the middle, it’s up to you. There are hundreds of different stretches, and I’d love to write and explain each one, but I’m not going to. I don’t have the time, and I doubt you have the patience.

Don’t worry, for your purposes, all you really need to learn is one for each major muscle. Believe me, you already know most of them (from gym class), and I just told you how they should be performed. Alright, I’ll give you a quick example: When stretching the back of the upper part of your legs (hamstrings), slowly bend down and try to touch your toes, without bending your knees. When you feel it stretching, hold it for 30 seconds, then release. Then move on to the next one.

That’s my piece on flexibility, Joe. Whether you strive to increase your range of motion, improve your posture, prevent injuries, or any other "non-fitness related reason", the benefits are there. So remember, find the stretch, hold it for 30 seconds, then release. It’s that simple. If you keep at it, you’ll be touching your toes, and splitting on the floor in no time. Just go for it, make sure to warm up, take it very slow, enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you at the gym.

Shaun

EasyFitness@aol.com


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