Stretching feels great. Not only that, it also offers a score of benefits. We know that it substantially reduces the risk of injury, for one thing. For another, it helps prevent sore muscles after exercise. It is also known to improve flexibility, which, in turn, helps improve overall athletic performance. So in a nutshell, stretching is a wonderful thing, and it’s always a great idea to incorporate a good stretching routine into your day. However, stretching is also not without its own set of perils. Let’s take a look at some of them.
As we said, stretching feels good, which is probably why many people tend to overdo it. Overstretching, therefore, is an extremely common problem that many people face. This usually occurs when a runner or athlete or weekend workout warrior continues to stretch a muscle that had already been stretched out. This then causes the muscle to tear, and the person may not be able to do any more physical exercises until it is completely healed.
2. Improper stretching.
Another danger of stretching is improper stretching. This is pretty much self-explanatory. Many people perform stretches on their own without knowing that they might be doing it wrong. Basically, the premise is sound, but the execution is incorrect. This is why it is very important to be familiar with every stretch that you do.
3. Muscle injury.
Stretching can lead to muscle injury, if you are not careful. This could lead to anything from small tearings in the muscle fibers, to larger strains that are nothing short of debilitating. No matter how small the damage is, however, scar tissue will inevitably form over the torn fiber. This scar tissue then reduces the injured muscle’s flexibility.
4. The muscle weakens.
When muscles are strained from stretching, they would be unresponsive and basically out of commission for about half an hour at the very least. This means that if you injure yourself from stretching, it will take time before you can perform your physical activity of choice once again.
So now that we know that stretching is not as benign an activity as most people think, it is time to consider what can be done to avoid any unfortunate injury and a great deal of pain.
First of all – and we really can’t stress this enough – you have to know your stretch to ensure that you’re doing it right. For novices, working with a trainer and going over every stretch is a great way to make sure that you are executing your stretches the right way.
Next, stretches should not be held for more than 30 seconds at the start, so make sure to time your stretches accordingly. Also, don’t rush your stretches, and make sure to practice correct breathing while you’re at it. As your muscles become more elastic with consistent stretching, so can you increase the intensity – that is, the amount of time you can hold the position.
Lastly, don’t confuse stretches with warming up – these are two very different things. In fact, like all exercises, you need to warm up before you stretch to make sure that your muscles work to their maximum capability without the risk of injury.