Stretch Yourself

and Wake Up Your Muscles

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August 2019 Issue
by Sherri Rees, LMT

Have you ever woken up and felt like your limbs aren’t responding to what your brain is asking them to do? How about taken a long road trip, and when you go to get out of the car, you’re not sure if you can actually make contact with the pavement without toppling over?

Short, tight and stiff. These are all conditions your muscles want to avoid, but they need your help. Muscles, like many other systems in the body, retain memory. That memory is what propels the body into motion, recalls specific movements, and retains the muscles normal physiological shape. So, when you’re lying down, sitting, or standing for a period of time, your muscles want to stay in that position, which causes them to shorten and become tight. By stretching, you are activating the muscle memory and returning them to their normal designed state. Stretching will enable the joints to lubricate themselves, increase blood flow into muscle tissue, reduce muscle tension and improve range of motion. These are all necessary to improve balance, strength and physical stamina.

A lot of people do not understand the importance of daily stretching, and how stretching correctly will gain the most benefit and reduce the risk of injury. There are over 600 muscles in the human body! Where do you even begin?

Out with the old, in with the new!

In the past, it was believed that stretching was best done prior to an activity. Today, fitness experts warn that stretching a muscle before it is properly warmed-up can be harmful. Warming up is simple. It can be as easy as just 10 minutes of walking or gentle muscle contractions. Seated calf raises or arm raises are a great way to get blood moving into your muscles to warm them up before a stretch routine.  

My advice? Begin with the larger muscle groups, which are used most frequently and vigorously.

Lower extremity muscles that are critical for mobility include calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors. Your lower back should not be ignored, and don’t forget your shoulders and neck! Set a goal of three to four times a week to begin with, and before you know it, you will be looking forward to the blissful feelings of getting your stretch on!

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If you have a medical condition, or have questions about how to stretch properly, consult with a physician, physical therapist, chiropractor, personal trainer or massage therapist. Lack of accountability is the No. 1 cause of falling out of a routine. Find a buddy if you have trouble sticking to a stretching practice. As you become more advanced, you can incorporate stretches that requires two people (called active assisted or assisted stretches). Also, having someone there to check your form and hold you accountable can be a powerful thing!

Other options include taking a yoga or pilates class, or hiring a personal trainer or stretch specialists. You can also take your stretch routine to the pool. The buoyancy of the water can make movements possible that are difficult to do on land.  

Maybe you’re a gym rat, find yourself at the tennis court or on a golfing green. Regardless of your game, stretching for increased range of motion will help you improve. Staying flexible is beneficial to the body and helps you feel better at all ages. What are you waiting for? Go get your stretch on!

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Sherri Rees is a Licensed Massage Therapist at PULSEology. She earned her Certificate in Therapeutic Massage at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis through the Indiana Therapeutic Massage School in 2005. Sherri has practiced massage in both private practice and the spa setting. She has specialized her skills to work with athletes, geriatrics, and those recovering from injuries. Sherri is is skilled in Deep Tissue, Prenatal, Geriatric, Lymphatic drainage, Swedish, Aromatherapy, Hot Stone, and Sports massage. She is passionate about helping others attain their wellness goals and self-care. 55 Hospital Center Cmns, HHI; 843-277-0270; www.pulseology.biz

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