Make the Most of Your Stretching – Lauren Williams
Is your warm up your 5:00am wake up? Is it your “I’m finally done with work!” social time? Do you use it to make a checklist for the rest of the day? It’s probably a little bit of all of that, and that’s fine! Just try to make sure that it’s priming your body for what you want it to do during your time in the box, too.
Stretching is a big part of getting your body moving and keeping it healthy over the long haul. There are many different types of stretching: dynamic, static, ballistic, and PNF/contract relax to name a few. At SRCF we routinely do a dynamic warm up (think pole to pole, leg swings, and other active range of motion drills) with the occasional static stretch added in (think squats with feet on wall, lunge position holds, and other stationary holds). Contrary to some research on stretching around exercise, the only bad stretch is the one that you skip!
My question to you is do you do the warm up/stretch with as much emphasis on form and reps as you do the upcoming WOD?
Check the form of all your dynamic and static stretches when we start as they are the base from which your WOD builds. For example, when we’re doing leg swings, focus on standing tall, core tight, upper body not moving or leaning over and just moving the legs from the hips on leg swings. Being sure that all of your motion comes from the hips helps increase the range of motion of the hips. Note that they might not be easy as they used to be – you might not touch your toes on rep one but hopefully you get closer by the end of the drill. Try to figure out what the point of a stretch or a drill is and be sure that you’re getting everything you can from it, rather than “faking” range of motion by bending your knees or rounding your back.
The worst thing that you can do after a WOD is lay down on the ground. I get that the idea is to be completely spent, nothing left, not even the ability to stand, but keep fighting and stand up and move. When you just stop your blood pools in your muscles, it has a harder time circulating through the body because you’re not moving around, and gravity is taking over. If you can walk around while your heart rate comes back down, and get the blood to flow at a more normal rate, your body is less likely to malfunction. Yes, you can feel like jello, have heavy arms and legs, and still feel like death but you’re not dead yet! Rather you are now primed to stretch again! That heavy jello feeling means that your muscles are less likely to fight the stretch/new position/reach that you want them to get and the blood flow makes them the warmest they will be all day, so take advantage of it! During the WOD you moved through full ranges of motion , now focus your stretches on keeping that below parallel squat. Or if you know you have that hamstring that nags at you later in the day: work on it now while it’s ready and willing.
After you have completed the WOD do you rush to leave? I get it life is busy, but if you want your body to keep coming back for more, help it out. This is not a post on nutrition so consider dessert the key to getting better; in this case dessert is the post WOD stretch. You want to be faster at running – sure work your form and endurance, but most sprinters don’t have tight hamstrings, stretch! Have a hard time getting into a squat? Do you leave the box immediately after the WOD and sit in a car and then at a desk? If so hello tight hip flexors! Help them out for just five minutes and stretch!
As a side note, foam rolling is not stretching. But if that is all you have time for do it! It is better than nothing, and some of the positions you get into while foam rolling could include a stretch. Hate the lunge stretch? Try lunging with one leg while placing the foam roller on the hip flexor of the other getting you a stretch and a roll at the same time! Forearms tight? Stretch them at the same time as the quads in the normal palms down position or always adjust the wrist to be in that position when stretching in lunge (front or side). These are quick easy adjustments to make the best out of the limited time you may have to stretch.
Ideally, we would all have time to do a ROMWOD or yoga every day before and/or after a WOD. If you can, props to you! But do you? Most of us don’t, so instead try to focus in on the warm up – every rep counts from the moment you walk through the red door. And please cool down and treat your body to dessert with a post WOD stretch. Let me know if you want to know more about different stretching techniques. I am always happy to help!
Lauren has been a Rabbit since day 1. She has been a certified Athletic Trainer for the last 13 with 8 years in collegiate athletics before moving into high school/middle school sports. You’ll always see her in the gym on leg day… squatting more than you.