Why I Don’t Do Static Stretching

Static Stretching

Static stretching has long been abandoned as a pre workout warmup but should we also abandon it post workout? There is a lot of evidence that supports the idea that we should!

Now when I say static stretching I am referring to exercises such as bending over and touching your toes where you aren’t moving or exploring range of motion. We often go through these stretches with no real purpose and no real minfulness for the task at hand. Static stretching will increase your flexibility sometimes but it is not the most efficient in increasing your range of motion or teaching your body efficiency in the running motion.

Mobility exercises like the ones I have talked about in previous posts, often involve exploring the running range of motion such as the couch pose pictured below.

Static Stretching

There are also dynamic stretches that explore your sport specific range of motion – think of a dynamic warm up! You have leg swings, hip flexor pulses, fire hydrants and many other variations that work on activating the muscle as well as increasing mobility. I’m a big fan of working in the running specific range of motion and doing everything you can to improve your overall efficiency.

Then there’s yoga as well which takes all of these elements and incorporates core strength and breathing – I love yoga because it forces you to think about what you’re doing while you breathe and while you move. It’s not about sitting in a stretch and lengthening that muscle it’s about building strength in motion and building range of flexibility in all three planes of motion.

Is static stretching going to hurt you? Not necessarily but there is some evidence that excess stretching can lengthen the muscles too quickly. The point of this post is that there are a lot better ways to get more bang for your buck when talking about injury prevention and increasing your range of motion.

I will continue this idea in later posts but for now if you have any questions you can always reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram or drop by my Anthrophysique page.

Happy Running,

– Justin

Opening to Curiosity – Yoga

DSC00299My journey into a daily, at-home, yoga practice has been long and varied with fits and starts and shifting focus. But all of it has been progress and a continual building on itself even if it didn’t appear that way at the time. Maybe to someone other than myself, it looks like a bunch of detours and u-turns but I’m just following the light that bubbles up inside of me when I practice – when I sit in meditation, when I kick up into a handstand, when I surrender to a forward bend. Sometimes yoga feels like a struggle both physically and emotionally – but within any struggle there comes that moment of light, that burst of relief from the tension, a softening of the pushing and striving.

Practicing yoga makes you curious. You start to tap into and uncover parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there which then stimulates an interest and yearning to keep exploring and finding things outside yourself that encourage these ‘new’ parts of you. Sometimes you uncover light, sometimes you uncover dark. Either way, if you stay open and curious, it will lead you to miraculous places.

new yoga studioYou can start with any of the eight limbs of yoga or you can start with the most obvious, accessible, and least subtle. The asana or posture practice. This is beginning of being curious. The physical poses make you move your body in ways that are counter to it’s habits and challenge you to hang in there mentally. This physical opening, or energetic release, of the parts of your body – your hips, upper back, hamstrings, shoulders – that are tight or locked down allows something new to rush in. A curiosity about your mind, a curiosity about your dominant emotions, a curiosity about the effect of food on your body and mood, a curiosity about inherent beauty in nature, a curiosity about that neighbor whom you never bothered to speak to, a curiosity about… These peaks of interest lead you to take a painting workshop or stock your pantry with new foods or pick up a different book or talk to the local artist who lives down the block or read old journals or ask your grandmother about her childhood or take that road trip or apply for that job or take that belly dancing class or walk into that meet-up group.

The light will catch your attention anyway it can and by following our curiosity and consistently stimulating our innate knowing leads to a flowering of the heart and the realization that life can be, and, actually, is always, joyful.

Stretching & Mindfulness

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Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Every athlete, exerciser, active person, and couch potato can benefit from stretching and most of us stretch daily whether intentional or not. Oftentimes daily stretching becomes habitual and thoughtless. We may not be getting the maximum benefit from from this important routine if we continually tune-out. I believe incorporating some yogic principles and even yoga asanas (or postures) into your stretching routine will maximize the physical and mental benefits of stretching.

First, start with being more mindful while doing your current stretching routine. Take those standard stretches you do every day and play with doing them in silence (no music) and with your eyes closed. Instead of counting the seconds you are holding the stretch, instead focus on your breath. See how slowly you take an in-breath and an out-breath and then practice equalizing the duration of each in-breath and out-breath (count during this portion, if needed). This often has the effect of taking you out of your mind and more fully into your body which can lead to deepening the stretch.

Second, bring even more mindfulness to your stretching by taking your attention to the parts of your body that are resisting the stretch. For instance, visualize your breath reaching into your hamstrings while you are in a forward bend. Over time you will actually feel a release of tension in the body part in which you are directing your thoughts and breath. You will actually be able to feel your body let you in. Notice which muscle groups contract and which lengthen for each stretch.

Third, instead of just stretching one muscle group at a time, you can choose a yoga posture that stretches the particular muscle group you are focusing on and so much more. For example, Revolved Triangle will stretch the hips, hamstrings, and IT band while also opening up the back, shoulders, waist, and arms.

Why use this opportunity to practice mindfulness? Bringing more attention and awareness into your body can only be good for your workouts (as well as your mental health!). Mindfulness practices have been shown to slow heart rate, reduce stress, anxiety, and tension, bring clarity and creativity, and foster compassion for both ourselves and others. Bringing mindfulness to the mundane, such as stretching or dishwashing or commuting, is the perfect practice for being able to use mindfulness at times when the stakes are higher such as intimate relationships, work projects, or health issues.

Muscle Soreness – What to do?

online fitness coaching - muscle soreness

If you’ve ever done strenuous activity, you’ve probably had muscle soreness from it. It can actually be really easy to get at times, but the question becomes how do I get rid of it and how long should I be resting before I workout again? In this video, I talk about the two types of muscle soreness and whether or not it’s good to workout.

Muscle soreness is a very common part of exercise if you’re challenging yourself properly. For some, muscle soreness is actually the reference point for whether or not they’ve worked out hard enough. Regardless of how you get it, it can be a very painful experience. At the very least, it’s definitely not pleasurable.

In my opinion, there are two types of muscle soreness. I’ll classify them as good soreness and bad soreness. Good soreness is when you’ve worked out hard and you feel it the next day. There’s discomfort in moving around but not a lot of serious pain. Bad muscle soreness is when there is a lot more pain. It can be very challenging to move around, especially after being stationary for a while. This is because there has been a lot of micro-tearing of the muscle fibers and they’re needing repair.

The question now is: should I workout, or should I rest?

With good muscle soreness, it’s actually beneficial to workout. The movement of the muscles and blood flow to the area will help reduce the tightness.

With bad muscle soreness, you likely want to rest those muscles. It may take up to a week or more for the muscles to fully heal. However, that doesn’t mean you need to stop working out completely. Do workouts that involve other areas of the body and avoid the muscles that are in pain. The exercise will still increase blood flow to the sore area and help the recovery process.

I’d love to hear your experience of this and if it worked for you. Also, I’d love to hear if you have other tips for reducing muscle soreness. Please share in the comments below.