The Stretch That Satisfies
In the adrenaline rush of pre- and post-training, it’s easy to forego stretching. But here’s why it should be a habit.
Performing stretches is neglected by most athletes; newbies and endurance junkies are no exception. You could be too tired from your workout, or you’re short on time, or you’re just stubborn or lazy. Stretching is important: we can extend our careers in and enjoyment of a sport we love by decreasing the chances of overuse injuries, and enhance performance with improved efficiency and economy through better flexibility and mobility.
Here are examples: You can purchase the most aerodynamic gear to boost your speed on the bike, but you can attain and sustain aerodynamic efficiency through a good bike fit and a lower front-end position on your handlebars or aero bars. In my experience, having a lower front-end position decreases wind drag, leading to a faster ride without expending too much energy. To achieve a low front-end position, you must have good flexibility and mobility of your lower back, glutes, calf and especially your hamstrings. In running, speed is a combination of stride rate and stride length. Range of flexibility and mobility are the two limiting factors in improving stride length. By expanding your flexibility and mobility, you’ll become faster without feeling like you’re losing gas in your tank at the same stride rate.
ACTIVE ISOLATED STRETCHING
I introduce the concept of Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), a method conceived 35 years ago by kinesiotherapist and licensed massage therapist Aaron L. Mattes of Sarasota, Florida. Mattes has co-authored books on sports rehabilitation and authored Active Isolated Stretching: The Mattes Method. AIS is an athletic stretching technique that lengthens muscle and releases fascia (a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ) thus providing effective, dynamic, facilitated (using the body’s own action to make it easier) stretching for most muscle groups. AIS provides functional and physiological restoration of superficial and deep fascial areas. It also allows the body to repair itself and to prepare for physical exercise. This stretching technique also works with the body’s natural physiological makeup by improving circulation and increases the elasticity of muscle joints and fascia.
HOW IT WORKS
In AIS, you don’t hold a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds as you would with traditional stretching exercises. You’ll use a rope like the SKLZ AccuStrap (Chris Sports; P1,379.00) to gently assist in pulling your muscles a little further than what your own body can perform on its own. The AIS promotes the scientific principle called “reciprocal inhibition,” of which the muscle on one side of a joint must relax in order for the opposing muscle to contract.
Here are some things that you should be mindful of when performing AIS:
⇐ Use your hip flexors and quadriceps to lift your limb actively for the entire range of motion that your body can perform and then exhale as you gently pull with the SKLZ AccuStrap.
⇐ The gentle pull should add no more than 5 to 10 percent of the current range of motion and no longer than two (2) seconds for each repetition
⇐ Perform eight to ten repetitions per exercise per leg.
⇐ Do the entire series of leg stretches on one leg first, before doing it on the other leg. This helps save time.
You can perform AIS every day at the end of a workout or during your free time.