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"If you ever feel like you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown, just follow these simple rules:First, calm down; second, come over and wash my car; third shine all my shoes. There, isn't that better."
Whether you are a weightlifter or not, stretching is an important part of keeping smooth, flexible muscles. After I had been lifting for six months, I discovered I was trading off strength for flexibility. I wanted both. I had started a stretching regimen, but I hated it. Sometimes it seemed that I stretched and just got stiffer. Then one day, I asked a young woman at the gym, who was quite limber, if there was a secret to stretching which I was missing. She explained that lifting was resistance and stretching was submission. A yin yang. A balance. A giving in to oneself. After that stretching became easier and fun. I no longer strained myself to stretch further than was comfortable. I learned to breath with the stretch. I also found that when I put on head phones and listened to Mozarts greatest hits, I went into a euphoric and relaxed place of mind. My flexibility improved and I could feel that agility and strength that I hadn't felt since I was a teenager.
"If there's ever an amusement park called Bag World, I bet it would really start to annoy you after a while how they really sort of stretch the definition of "bag".
In almost all sports, trainers and coaches are seeing the benefit to a good stretching program. Stretching before and after sports workouts is generally a good idea. When I lift, I often stretch between sets. However, you do not have to be an athlete or weightlifter to stretch. If you do sit down work, it is a good idea every once in a while to get up and stretch what's stiff. Easy stretching upon awakening is a good way to prevent pulls and injuries as you go about day to day activities. Or stretch when you feel like it. Notice how often your pet stretches. They even seem to stretch before taking a nap. To help you along I have written a short basic stretch manual. Check it out:
A word about over-stretching. Take care about stretching too long. An easy stretch is any where from 10-30 seconds. After and easy stretch, try to move a little further, feeling mild tension and hold for 10-30 seconds. Stay in control. There should be no pain. If tension does not diminish within a few seconds ease off as needed. Do not hold your breath. If you find yourself doing so, ease up on your stretch. Remember we are not attempting to become rag dolls. We want flexibility and strength.
Holding a stretch too long or bouncing up and down puts a strain on the muscles. What is called the "stretch reflex" goes into play. These methods of stretching cause pain, due to muscle fiber tearing. The injuries lead to scar tissue formation, causing muscles to loose elasticity. Forget the old "no pain, no gain" litany of the past. Stretching should be comfortable and painless. Remember some muscles often won't need as much stretching as others. Learn to listen to your body. It knows when your stiff an need a good stretch.
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