Durango offers an assortment of outdoor activities, and stretching will help you get the most out of your adventures.
Most of us had to stretch every day in Physical Education all throughout K-12 education. Even if your days of dodgeball and floor hockey are behind you, stretching is a simple and enjoyable practice with many health benefits. So let’s take a look at what it can do for your body.
Below you will find some key ways stretching can improve your experience with outdoor activities, as well as one persistent myth of stretching we have to talk about.
Stretching improves your overall range of motion. It expands vessels, increases blood flow, and sends your joints through their full range. It can also aid athletic performance when targeted towards the specific muscle groups of your sport(s). In this way, you can decrease your risk of injury by stretching muscles and tendons that are most likely to be strained.
Different categories of stretches have different desired results. Some focus on rehabilitation, while others aid in athletic performance, resisting injury, etc. The type of stretching that helps improve overall flexibility is known as “static stretching”. These are stretches that you hold firmly for an extended amount of time (30 seconds or more). Recommended stretches can be found with ease online and will help you expand your overall range of movement.
Another benefit of stretching is improved posture. After a long day of physical activity or work (even at desk jobs), you may experience tightness in particular parts of your body. This could be a sign that you need some targeted stretches to improve your daily posture.
We cannot detail a routine here, but it is important to focus on symmetry. Your muscle groups tend to come in pairs, as well as having groups that counterbalance each other. Make sure to stretch both sides of your body at similar rates. Aim for an equal range of motions (past injuries can inhibit this, so do not overstrain).
Also, pain is not the goal of stretching, and it should actually go down as your posture improves.
Recent scientific research has shown though that not all athletic activities are equal when it comes to who should be stretching. So, a quick lesson on sports science is in order. A primary purpose of stretching is to increase the elasticity of the body’s muscles and tendons. This is known as “compliance”. As we discussed above, stretching increases overall flexibility in general, but also has an immediate effect on what you will do next.
Recent studies indicate that intense sports that require a lot of bouncing, jumping, and heavy impact on the body (these traits are known as the “stretch-shortening cycles” (SSC of a sport), stretches do reduce injury. Examples of these sports would include football, basketball, or soccer. Whenever a lot of unexpected movement happens, the additional flexibility is helpful.
In contrast, studies have also shown that stretching before low-intensity sports with less SSC does not reduce the risk of injury. In some cases, it even increases the risk. These sports include running, cycling, and swimming, where actions are steady and repetitive. Many of the outdoor activities you are likely to get into while exploring the mountains and rivers around Durango will be lower intensity.
Finally, studies have also found that five to ten minutes of lite warm-up exercises is actually what you should do before heavy activity, and is even recommended before doing any stretching.
Stretching absolutely has a regular place in anyone’s fitness regimen, regardless of preferred sport. This includes those looking to explore the mountains here in Durango. Just keep in mind that directly before a long run, hike, or trip down the rapids is not the ideal time for stretching. Do a five-to-ten minute warm-up first, and then head off on your adventure. After you return from your adventure do some stretches as you cool down.