Hi, my name’s David and I work the Reception at Holistic Massage for you. I’ve played sport of one kind or another since I was about 5, and the advice you’re given for best performance has consistently changed.
I’ve had countless ‘guidance’ about stretching over the years, “don’t do it before exercise, do it afterwards”, “it’s not a good idea to stretch after vigorous exercise only light”, “stretching is detrimental to building lean muscle”…Despite all of this conflicting information I’ve often come across athletes militant on their methods of how to warm up, one team I used to play for said they wouldn’t even let me train if I hadn’t stretched before training!
So, when it comes to stretching, what is the best way to warm up?
There is not a definitive answer….The ‘warming up’ is to prepare your body for exercise, to fill your muscles, tendons and ligaments with blood and oxygen so they become more pliable, nourished and to prevent tears or strains appearing. It also has the effect of preparing your muscles to effectively use the energy systems needed for exercise and to drain lactic acid which can build up as our muscles work.
It’s true that even if you warm up or not you may not get injured, particularly when doing low intensity exercise. Its often when you change your patterns that problems begin to occur, for example; if you warm up and stretch before a light run, then you do not stretch before a few runs, you have a higher chance of getting injured. It’s the same the other way round, if you never stretch then start stretching before runs, you also have a higher chance of getting injured!
However, if you find yourself partaking in intensity activities, like those found in most sport, a warm up is advised, especially if you have spent the majority of the day sat down at work, or taken a moderate drive to your place of exercise.
The argument here is whether static or dynamic stretching is best before an event, for optimum health and improved performance. Static Stretching is to lean into a stretch slowly whilst in a state of rest. Dynamic stretching is propelling your muscles into an extended state.
The body of knowledge out there at the moment, suggests static stretching can hinder performance if stretches are held for too long, with that in mind static stretching is still beneficial as it will gradually lengthen your muscles, ligaments and tendons, just don’t let your total stretch time per muscle get over 30 seconds (e.g 3 stretches each 10 seconds) and include dynamic stretching as this increases flexibility and is more likely to prevent injury!
The best bit of advice I’ve ever received is “once you have an effective warm up routine, don’t vary it”, the warm up is not just to warm your muscles up, it helps build you up psychologically and maintaining a routine will help to put you in the right mindset for games or matches.
Also… Sports Massage is a brilliant way of warming up your muscles. We wouldn’t advise a ‘normal’ or Swedish Massage a pre event, Sports Massage is not designed to relax a muscle, pre-event it is applied quick and vigorous to get as much energy, blood and oxygen into the muscle as possible as well as lengthening them and draining the lactic acid. A Sports Massage works very deep in order to thoroughly treat the entire body, releasing tension and removing toxins. It’s widely practised, people will often self massage prior to a game, but it’s not the same, I’ve even seen people using rolling pins to help stretch the muscle!
Massage, when applied correctly, can also help in calming and focussing your mind before an event, if you do feel tense or worried, we advise a superficial Sports Massage, this will help your mind relax, but wont hinder your performance by relaxing the muscles, this will include long and gentle strokes.
Whatever you do, make sure it works for you, everyone’s body reacts differently, if you’re not sure, get in touch and we’d be more than happy to advise, we may suggest Deep Tissue Massage if you have knots and pain, or Sports Massage if you have a lot of muscle, either way, Massage is an important part of keeping fit, healthy and happy and performing at your best! Our therapists will also be able to give guidance on stretches that will work best for you to combat postural problems or recover from injury.