Flex appeal.jpg

Flex appeal

LUÍSA IS an amazing yoga teacher I met on my return to Portugal. She taught me how to slow down and enjoy my life. I now use meditation to re-focus my thoughts, which got me thinking – how often do we model our gym lives on our real lives?

Too many people rush through their workouts without doing any warm-up or cool down stretching. Seven deadly sin number one. So, is stretching that important? YES!

As we age, the elasticity in our connective tissues deteriorates, resulting in less ROM (range of motion) and tighter muscles, affecting our flexibility. Gender and varying temperature changes are other factors. Studies show women to be more flexible than men and temperature changes can affect flexibility by as much as 20 per cent.

It is, therefore, vitally important to include flexibility exercises when creating a balanced workout. Using ROM exercises will help improve your body’s capacity to prevent injury, as well as create a balance between muscle groups, which results in reduced stress levels and better posture.

What type of stretches can you do?

Passive – The slow and controlled stretching of a muscle group, from passive through to the full range of motion. This stretch should be held for 15-20 seconds at the point where you are able to feel the muscle being stretched without discomfort. This is the safest method of stretching, as it has no sudden movements. Use passive stretching in the warm-up and cool down phases of your workout.

ROM – Stretching combines the use of passive and rhythmical movement of the muscles being targeted for training. ROM stretching is excellent for developing muscles for everyday activities. The muscle should be held in the stretched position without outside help (a trainer) for 10-15 seconds, then repeated at least five times for each side of the body.

Dynamic – Stretches are the rhythmical swinging or rotation through the body’s range of motion. They require control, as it is easy to cause muscular injury by moving too far beyond the joint’s ROM. If you are new to exercising, it will be best to avoid doing dynamic stretching.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is the most effective type of stretch. It can help to increase a person’s ROM by almost 200 per cent over just three months. PNF can be done on your own using a towel, however, the best results are gained if you work with a partner. PNF uses two opposing forces – you and your partner’s. The partner stretches the muscle into a passive stretch position. When this is achieved, you must apply opposing pressure for approximately six seconds. Release the stretch, then repeat the process, this time taking the passive stretch a little further, thereby progressively increasing your ROM.

Personal trainers will develop your ROM capacity, although a balanced flexibility workout should include yoga at least once a week. Visit Luísa’s website at www.lulushanti.com to find out more about the benefits of yoga. So, until next time, enjoy life and show some flex appeal.

• If you have any questions you’d like me to answer, send me an e-mail at [email protected] or call me on 961 847 575.