Last time I talked about some strategies that will not only help you warm up before a workout, but also try to beat the freeze that we endured the past week and a half. Now that the weather has turned, we may not be as focused on how cold we are. However, that doesn't change the fact it is still winter and it is still cold.
Warm, healthy muscle tissue has elastic properties necessary to produce and absorb the force of any type of workout. Think of your warm muscles and surrounding tissues as a trampoline in summer; springy, loose, and ready to absorb and produce force back into the user. Now think of your "cold" muscles as a trampoline in the winter; rigid, relatively inelastic, and it doesn't provide as much force back to the user. Now add to that, if you use that trampoline in the winter, there's a good chance it is too rigid and brittle to absorb the force you put into it. The result? It breaks! Now think of that trampoline as one of your muscles, and you have a key ingredient in the recipe for a chronic injury.
The funny thing is that most of us know to put away our trampoline for the winter, but most of us don't realize the importance of warming up or flexibility training. Take a minute to think about that!
I'd like to talk more about flexibility training; it's nothing more than addressing tight muscles through any part of your movement chain. Going back to the trampoline analogy I mentioned earlier, replace "cold" muscles and surrounding tissues with "tight" muscles and surrounding tissues, and you have the same recipe for a chronic injury but with a different ingredient thrown in. So what do we do about tight muscles?
Well, step one is to get your muscles warm and moving. If you tuned in to my previous post, you'd have some tips to do so! Building on top of that information, step two is to add mobility by expanding the joints' range of motion. This means foam rolling and stretching.
When I bring up foam rolling, people most likely conjure images in their head of a piece of heavy equipment meant to roll out and flatten concrete. While it may be uncomfortable to do, foam rolling is an important part of keeping our muscles pliable and elastic. Not only does it force an increase in blood flow to the site you are rolling, but it helps calm overactive and tight tissues. Foam rolling is just one tool in your fitness “tool belt” that helps you stay injury-free.
Stretching is one other tool that I highly recommend. If you're familiar with it, you know there are different types of stretching: dynamic, static, and contract-relax. I already hinted in my last blog about dynamic stretches, and I generally don't encourage static stretching as a warm-up. Flexibility and stretching isn't often part of someone's goals until it is too late, so make it a part of your regimen!
If you have tight spots and you don't know what to address, speak to a movement professional. Even if you don't have a hitch in your giddy up and you're looking to improve the efficiency of how you move while reducing your risk of injury, speak to a movement professional.
If you’d like help setting and achieving your health and wellness goals, please contact Jack Zahn at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.