Flexibility and Balance Cardio and strength training
This past week and got to see how you function well rested. But, it’s a brand new week! So here’s a brand new topic! We’ve already covered two types of exercises:
Cardio and strength training. Previous weeks have even given you some tips on food swaps, what a balanced meal is, why sometimes you just want to eat everything, and even why sleep is so important to your health. Today, we cover our last topic. To bring it full circle… what’s one of the first things you do in the morning after you wake up? How about a big long stretch of your whole body? That’s right…today we’ll be focusing on stretching, and more specifically: flexibility and balance.
So lets get straight into the recommendations and benefits as well as what types of exercises count as flexibility and balance and how to do them.First lets talk about the recommendations on stretching.
Currently it’s recommended to do some stretching exercises about 3 times a week.
But how do you do that??? Well, there are a variety of ways. You can literally just hold a position for about 30 seconds at a time, release and repeat for total of 60 seconds. This is called static stretching. Or you can do some dynamic stretching that basically involves movement while you also stretch your muscles.
Now, what about types of exercises that count as flexibility and balance.
If YOGA came to mind, then you’re right!! YOGA really does give you the best of both worlds. Not only are your using your muscles and stretching through movements BUT you are also holding certain positions (static) in both power poses and stretching poses. Gotta love yoga! Good thing is that you don’t even need to enroll in a class.
You can find awesome yoga classes 0n youtube and do them from the comfort of your home! How do I know? I’ve used them!!
The slow, guided flow from each movement makes use of each of the muscles that help you with stability.
More stable means less falls. The older you get the more important these balance exercises become. Okay, so yoga and tai chi, but what are the benefits of doing these flexibility and balance exercises? You ready?
- Stretching and flexibility improve your range of motion
This means that your joints can move the way they are supposed to. Like a well oiled car! You want good motion so you can get the most use of your muscles. For example:
If you were to trip over something and you’re pretty flexible, then your hip muscles have room to move to its extreme position and prevent a fall.. hopefully. Now if you are less flexible, think about trying to break your fall while your shoes are tied together. You won’t be able to the wide open step to prevent your fall because your range of motion is restricted. Same is true of your arms and other body parts.
- It also improves your athletic performance!
Lets put it this way, your muscles need to stretch a little so it can use its full potential to move. If you’re flexible then you can use your full range of motion, and your muscles can use their full potential too! This is great not only in sports but also in daily activities. What exactly happens when you need to carry groceries to the car? Or move a few things around the house? Or carry your books from class to class. MUSCLE USE! Sports or not… its good for your strength and power.
- Decrease risk of injury!
This is both in sports injuries and injuries in daily activities. For example: If you’re playing a sport and your fall on one of your joints in a weird way.. if your joints are okay with that kind of stretch… no injury.
On the other hand, if you’re doing daily activities like going up and down stairs or moving boxes, or putting dishes away or doing the bed. Then being flexible is a great way to these activities without pain, without strain and without injury. Why? Well because you can bend that way! So its no biggie! But what if you’re trying to lift a heavy box? And your hips aren’t flexible enough to bend wide? Chances are you will lift the box with your back rather than your buttocks and you guessed it… you “pulled your back”. Now you’re laying there in pain, hoping someone will some and help. How do I know this? Well… from experience obviously!
Like Rome, flexibility doesn’t come in a day! So what do you do? Like all other exercises.. start somewhere… and little by little push for more.
Now there is actually no extra benefit from stretching to the point of pain, rather than to the point of discomfort.. so don’t aim for pain.. just feel uncomfortable and you’ll benefit from the stretch. I know.. who wants to feel uncomfortable? Oddly enough, it starts to feel good and you find your body loves it!
A lot of people say “stretch before a work out”.. BUT.. you should actually WARM UP your muscles 1st, before you go an stretch them. A mild stretch before a workout is okay, but don’t try to do a full stretch before you’re warmed up.
Think of your muscles as cheese. I know, now I’m hungry too. If I give you a piece of cheese straight from the fridge, you won’t be able to stretch it and pull it right? Or maybe you will but then you’ll just rip it apart and nom nom nom. If you warm it up a bit.. like in a microwave.. you get all the stretch and melt you want without the rip! And then you can still nom nom nom! Muscles are the same… okay. Obviously you don’t want cheesy muscles. BUT you do want muscles that are warm enough to stretch and not be harmed. So… do some light warm up before you exercise. Like jumping jacks, knee ups, easy step, elliptical etc. Get blood and heat to go there!!!! That’s what you want.
Once you’re warm, feel free to stretch if you’d like. There are no recommendation on whether you should stretch before the workout or after. Do both if it makes you happy! Bottom line, make sure you stretch at least 3 times a week to keep your body functioning at its best!
- Make sure to stretch both sides equally! Having equal flexibility prevents injury.. asymmetric flexibility may put you at risk of injury, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent hello!!!!
- Stretch the muscles and joints you use most… for example: If you run a lot or play football.. stretch your calves, your hamstrings, your ankle joints, knees and hips. If you play basketball do the same and also get those shoulders. If you play soccer.. stretch those legs baby! Hamstrings are prone to injury, so give them some love. If you’re a yogi (meaning you do lots of yoga) get those wrists too! You get the idea!
If you don’t play any of those sports… stretch all those things anyway.. you learn to love the feeling of a good stretch! And you’ll use those joints especially your hips, your knees, ankles and shoulders. So stretch them all!
- Don’t BOUNCE on the stretch. Why? Like I’ve said before… if not controlled… you can get hurt. Slow, steady stretches are the safest.
Last thing to mention:
Evidence on the overall benefits of stretching are all over the place. Stretching before a race, or big sports event can lower your strength and power. So it may be best not to stretch before these events, but rather afterwards.
Phew! Did it! A whole 8 weeks of awesome info! But wait!! We’re not all the way done yet.. you didn’t think I’d forget about the last challenge yourself game did you?
Here’s your challenge… Now, Have any of you heard of the game TWISTER? It’s a really fun game.. Now not many people have this at home anymore.. it’s a bit of an older game. BUT you can make your own if you need to.
You can do it outside with chalk on the floor, you can put colored post-its on the floor, you can make the game whichever way you can. Below are the instructions and picture of the game. The idea is to play TODAY! Then stretch your hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles and knees after the game. Stretch those same joints again at least 3 times before you play the game again.