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Wrong! Stretching Is NOT the Best Thing to Do before a Workout, Then What to Do Instead?

Wrong! Stretching Is NOT the Best Thing to Do before a Workout, Then What to Do Instead?

Old habits are hard to break.

This also seems to be the case when it comes to the old school static stretching that you used to do in your physical education class. Static stretching, like tugging on your arms and legs has been the default “warm up” activity for decades, promising to be the best way to warm up for a workout or athletic competition. However, stretching is not the best thing you can do before your workout. In fact, what you’re about to read may go against everything you’ve been taught about stretching before you workout.

The one thing you shouldn’t do at this time is the very thing that most people do: stretch. So why is stretching before a workout a bad idea? Here are 5 reasons.

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1. Stretching is not the same as a warm up.

This is probably the hugest misunderstanding when it comes to preparing yourself for a workout. It’s imperative that you understand that these two routines (stretching vs. warming up) have completely different identities.

2. Stretching does not prepare your body for exercise.

Stretching actually decreases your heart rate and doesn’t stimulate your nervous system to prepare for the high intensity workout you’re about to take on. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that stretching before you lift weights may leave you weaker and less coordinated during your workout.

3. Stretching alone, before a workout, might increase risk of injury.

According to research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, stretching doesn’t prepare your muscles for eccentric loading (negative reps), which is when most strains are believed to occur.

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4. Stretching doesn’t prevent injury.

The idea that stretching prevents injury is almost a folk tale dating back to when Physical Education classes where introduced in school. It’s had a long life, but it’s time to put the idea to rest. Simply put, there isn’t any research to show that stretching alone helps prevent injury.

5. Stretching can make you sleepy.

Passive, static stretching has a calming effect that can make you sleepy—not exactly the mood you’re looking for before an intense workout.

So what should you do instead?

Perform a full body dynamic warm. Warming up will prepare all of your systems to ensure that you perform most efficiently in your workout. A good warm up should affect the heart, blood vessels, nervous system, muscles and tendons, along with the joints and ligaments. Additionally, a good warm up will sharpen your reaction time, enhance concentration, improve coordination and regulate your mental and emotional state. The warm up template below is a surefire way to ensure that your mind and body will be prepared to take on any workout.

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  • 5–10 minutes of aerobic activity (jog, bike, row)
  • 5 minutes of dynamic stretching and mobilitywod work (arm swings, leg swings, lunges, neck rolls, mountain climbers, foam rolling, voo doo flossing)
  • 5 minute mental prep

By using this template and performing a makeover on your warm up rather than just stretching, here is how you’ll improve your health mentally and physically:

  • The aerobic activity will prepare your cardiovascular system for exercise.
  • The dynamic stretching will not only prepare your joints and ligament for similar movements you’ll be doing in your workout, but it will also raise and maintain body temperature as you enter your workout. (static stretching can drop your temperature).
  • By practicing visualization and including mental prep in your warm up, you’ll not only be laser focused for your workout, but you’ll improve movement efficacy lowering your risk of injury.

Things to do before (and during) your workout to prevent injury bonus tips:

  • Eat some carbs.

    Glucose is fuel for your brain. If you don’t eat any carbs pre workout or have been on a low carb diet for a long time, your reaction time suffers. In an intense workout, this can lead to injury when you’re performing a complex movement like a box jump.

  • Train hard but train smart.

    Unless you’re an aspiring professional athlete or are already one, you need to listen to your body. Understand this before you enter your workout. Trying to break a personal record on your deadlift or 10k run is great, but if you do it at the expense of a herniated disk or stress fracture in your foot, it’s not worth much. You don’t get paid to do this; train hard, but train smart.

  • Intra-workout nutrition is important.

    During your workout, you want to minimize protein degradation, meaning you don’t want your body to resort to your lean body mass for fuel. When your workouts run for a long time, intra-workout nutrition becomes critical for you to preserve lean muscle mass. Intra-workout nutrition will also help you prevent injury as well. How? By making sure you avoid low blood glucose and avoiding depletion of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) with a intra-workout drink, you keep yourself away from leaving the door open for injury with the symptoms of low blood glucose like dizziness, shakiness, headache, blurred vision and weakness. None of these sound like they provide an optimal workout environment, right? A general prescription for intra workout drinks is to have 10–15g of carbohydrates and a blend of branch chain amino acids every 30 minutes.

So when is the best time to stretch? (And yes, you should stretch!) There are two times when you should perform static stretching, which are right after your workout as a cool down or if you are doing a yoga session. A cool down consisting of stretching will slow down the physiological functions of your body enhancing your recovery after your workout. Performing your cool down outdoors or in a natural environment is great for allowing your mind and body to enter a calming recuperative state after an intense workout. By combining both a warm up and cool down to your workout sessions, you will improve your health and decrease the chance of injury.

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Featured photo credit: http://depositphotos.com/portfolio-1759606.html via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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