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Stretching – The Truth

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

What are the benefits of stretching?

A lot of the guys that I have met while teaching the FaST Boys classes at Miss Fit Dance Studio either don’t or haven’t stretched since they were kids. Usually they think that adding a daily stretching routine to their workout is a waste of time. The attitude seems to be, unless they are pumping iron or pounding the pavements they aren’t getting a decent workout. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Stretching with or without your regular workout provides benefits that will serve to improve both your workouts and your health. The good thing is that it’s never too late to start. Improving your flexibility.

Neglecting stretching is just setting you up for injury and slower recovery. It is important to keep your muscles in good shape. It doesn’t need to take long – just 10 to 15 minutes per day – about the same time it takes you to drink that first cup of coffee in the morning. Ideally you should be stretching every other day.

I learnt some great tips from the anazing Evgeny Greshilov when he was last in Sydney, teaching pole dance classes at Miss Fit. Take it slowly, push until it hurts then come back just a little then hold your stretch and concentrate on your breathing. Hold your stretch for at least five normal breaths (not big or short gasps) let your body acclimatize to your stretch. Gently increase your stretch each session even if it is only a fingernails distance each time you are endeavoring to touch your toes. If you are consistent you will get to them

Check out the free eBook “Fit by Choice” on our Miss Fit Dance Studio website to learn some good stretches.

1. Good for Circulation

Lengthening and loosening the muscles (stretching) helps dramatically with your circulation. This increased blood flow also helps to prevent soreness and helps your muscles recover faster after a good pole jam allowing you back onto the pole sooner, and it will improve your overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. Your heart rate will also lessen as it doesn’t have to work as hard and your blood pressure will become more even and consistent. Improved circulation also decreases the build up of lactic acid in muscles, so that you can keep training for longer.

Stretching and walking around more frequently at work is being recognized as a simple and effective way to keep your body in better shape. Sitting at a desk for hours and hours is really bad for your butt and leg muscles – they become stiff and oxygen deprived. Force yourself to get up and move around more while you’re at work. Ergonomic offices are being designed with standing height desks to keep you on your feet more.

2. Injury Prevention and Reduction

As our bodies age, our muscles shorten and tighten. This decreases range of motion, and increases the chance of muscle, tendon, ligament or other soft tissue injuries. With the better circulation to your muscles that stretching allows you will also find your recovery from a hard exercise session will be quicker. Bruising is an unavoidable factor in pole dancing, especially if you are new to the sport or if you are trying new moves, the improved circulation that stretching brings will help to dissipate those bruises quicker.

David Owen from the USA is another expert on stretching who warns of the perils of over-stretching. Obsessively over-stretching each day makes your muscles continually stressed and eventually they tighten and shorten. You want a balance between strength and flexibility. Overly flexible joints are injury prone and lessen your control on the pole. They need to be supported by strong sling muscles. As an experienced trainer I can tell you if you are at risk.

Remember to never stretch a cold muscle – it is waste of time – 5 minutes of dynamic exercise to get your heart rate up and dilate your blood vessels are essential first.

3. Strength

Consider that pole is one of the best (if not the best) forms of resistance training available, it is definitely hard work lifting your body weight up and down a pole. Stretching increases your distance of expansion and contraction for those muscles allowing you greater range of movement. As an example; most people (especially the guys) usually want to try and rip out a flag on the pole (holding yourself horizontal with straight arms) this is probably the most difficult move you can perform on a pole from a strength point of view. Now imagine that you split your legs as wide apart as possible. You will have moved your centre of gravity closer to the pole thereby making it less work on your arms – believe it from a person who has tried this.

Stretching will improve your posture. Guys that are overly focused on building up their pecs can end up with a hunched back – you also need to stretch out those pecs guys! Can you clasp your hands behind your back with straight elbows?

4. Feel Good

Stretching makes you feel good physically and psychologically. It reduces stress through loosening the muscles and relieving built up tension. This is especially true for the muscles around your neck and shoulders. Similar to a good workout (preferably on the pole) it also releases endorphins in the brain that can cause a feeling of wellbeing and calmness, promoting a state of mindfulness. Also stretching releases natural anti-inflammatories into your tendons which make you feel good! As an example to those of us who spend long times hunched in front of our computers, what is the first thing you usually do when you have finished? Most people stand up straight and stretch their necks and arms back, this is your body automatically trying to expand your contracted back and neck muscles – take that advice for a good 15 minute stretch in the evening to help with a good nights sleep.

5. Being your Personal Best

Of course most of us are not aiming to become world champion pole dancers, but getting the balance right between strength and flexibility allows us to be the best that we can be. Check out the male finalists for the 2013 International Pole Championship. Their athleticism is a combination of flexibility and strength. They can inspire us all even if we never get close to their level of expertise. Rather than winning prizes at competitions, for most of us our reward is achieving our personal best, and seeing how far we can push our own measure of success.