What do your clients or athletes have in common? I will give you a hint. Do the words shoulder, chest, hamstrings, and hips help? They are tight! On just about everyone these areas are particularly tight, which can lead to imbalances in your muscle groups and ultimately injuries. Stretching needs to be individualized just like the strength and conditioning programs we design. Unless you tailor your flexibility training to the strengths and weaknesses of your clients and athletes, you may stretch already overstretched muscles and miss areas that need more focused training. Pay particular attention to older adults, pregnant women, and people with injuries. They may need special precautions when involved in a flexibility program.
Your emotional state may affect your flexibility training. If your mind is relaxed, your body will be more responsive to flexibility training. What does it take for you to relax? Don’t know? Try listening to music and focusing on your breathing. This is easy to do during your warm up. Huh? Yep, your warm up for your stretching session. If you are going to stretch, do not forget to warm up your muscles before you begin. Walking briskly for 10 to 15 minutes is a simple way to do this. Then take 20 minutes to stretch you entire body. It may be the best 30 minutes of your day.
Why is it that you hear people saying “I need to stretch”, but when I watch personal training sessions or sit down to help plan a practice session the first thing they want to cut out because of time constraints is flexibility. Very few sessions that I have witnessed whether in the athletic or private realms spend quality time stretching and going through legitimate range of motions to help improve flexibility or body awareness. Try this easy stretch that your boss won’t realize you are doing at your desk, or your coach won’t know you are doing during film. Take a tennis ball, pool cue ball, or golf ball and roll it on the bottom of your foot. Beginners should start with the tennis ball and as you become more comfortable pick a harder round object. You can even try standing on thick PVC pipe. The four to six inch variety works best to loosen up the ankle as well as strengthen the small muscles of the foot. Oh and yes, make sure you have a way to keep your balance when you inevitably put two feet on the PVC.