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Wright: Stretching your limits

Jackie Wright
The Fitness Trail

Flexibility, one of the five components of physical fitness, is defined as the range of motion about a joint. And, every joint has an ideal range of motion that we strive, as trainers, to assist our clientele in achieving, taking into consideration their specific limitations. You may be flexible at one joint and very inflexible at another for a plethora of reasons. If a joint has sustained an injury, you have been consistently sedentary or extremely sore, your flexibility may be impaired.

Additionally, flexibility is often dictated by our genetic predisposition. For example, an elite ballet dancer, in many cases is simply born possessing extraordinary flexibility providing tremendous mobility required to dance at an elite level. So, how do we “stretch” our limits taking into consideration our genetic, injury and structural component uniqueness? Consider the following five guidelines for integrating a stretching/flexibility segment into your exercise program and, while you may not become an elite ballet dancer, you will benefit from many of the aspects of a consistently performed stretching/flexibility component. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Guideline #1: Note the difference between a ballistic, dynamic and static stretch. We are considering static stretching rather than ballistic or dynamic as static stretches concentrate on maintaining or improving the flexibility about each joint rather than specific preparation for an event. Consequently, static stretches are recommended following your primary exercise program components. You should be warmed up prior to performing static stretches, therefore, an ideal time for performance of static stretches is once the cardiorespiratory endurance, and muscular strength/endurance components are completed.

Guideline #2: When performing a static stretch, hold the stretch (i.e. no bouncing/quiet the body) for approximately 15-30 seconds. You may perform the same stretch several times which tends to provide the body with the benefits of the static stretch without holding the stretch for long periods of time. For example, when my clients are performing a stretch program format, they are asked to perform three to four stretches for each major joint/muscle group of the body. This may either be accomplished by performing the same stretch several times or performing a variety of stretches for the same joint/muscle group.

Guideline #3: You may stretch daily as long as you follow guideline number one. In fact, request a stretching program designed by your trainer to provide you with a variety of safe and effective stretches for the entire body which will provide you with many options for each day of the week.

Guideline #4: Perform myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling, etc.), prior to stretching. One format sequence that our clients love is to perform a general body warm-up, followed by total body static stretching, then a visualization/meditation series completing the format with “finishing touches” to the stretches performed leaving the body lengthened, mobile and relaxed. *A great day to perform this stretching format is the last day of your workout week!

Guideline #5: Stretch to a point of tightness only. Never “force” a stretch or have a partner force the position. Allow the body to move into the stretch with control slowly, breathing rhythmically and out of the stretch as you entered it. You may experience tightness, soreness, but pain, particularly at any joint, should be avoided completely.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at http://www.mtnlifefitness.com , her email at jackie@mtnlifefitness.com, and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.


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