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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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