Stretching before a workout has become a hot topic of a sort lately. The question really is not whether you should stretch, but when to stretch. It is absolutely necessary to implement stretching into your workout to prevent injuries and to maximize your efforts. Walking is a low impact activity and many believe that it does not require any stretching. Those people are mistaken. Stretching is a wonderful way to get every benefit from your workout, why do anything worth doing half way?
Purpose Of Stretching
Stretching is to strengthen and lengthen your muscles. It is important when your desire is to create long, lean muscles. When you exercise your muscles tend to contract and tighten up. The purpose of stretching before beginning your walking routine is to warm your muscles up and prepare them for the activity they are about to perform. This way they are not “shocked” with intense activity, or activities your muscles may not be fully ready for.
There are several types of stretching. If you utilize the right techniques it becomes clearer which stretches need to be done at the beginning of your workout. Dynamic stretches are the best choice for pre-workout stretching. It wakes your body up and gets it into the right mode for activity. Static stretching should not be done before workout out, because your muscles are not warmed up sufficiently for the type of stretching static stretching requires. Save static stretches for finishing your walking routine.
Dynamic stretching is composed of active stretching. Using full body movements in a controlled way to warm up your whole body instead of specific muscle groups. There are many examples of dynamic stretches, finding the best ones to use in your routine will depend on personal choice. Choose about five dynamic activities and begin every walking session with them and see for yourself the benefits of using them to warm up before walking.
Examples of dynamic stretches are found in yoga and Pilates. Also there are a few basic stretches that take little effort or practice. Do several sets of them to warm up your body before walking.
Front to back leg swings: Swing your leg forward, extending it out in front of your body and then bring it back, extending it behind your body. Use controlled movement, don't just “throw” it out there.
Sideways leg swings: Swing your leg out to the side of your body, again with purpose, you are waking up your muscles.
Handwalks: Here you are using your whole body. Stretch upward toward the sky then down to the ground. Place your hands flat and walk out with them and then back again.
Lunge with rotations: The is a traditional lunge with a twist at the waist to wake up those back and core muscles.
Arm swings: There are several ways to implement arms swings. You can swing your arms across the front of your body, over your head or front to back. I recommend all of them, however remember not to “throw” them but to move your arms with purpose.
While walking is a low impact activity it is still important to warm up before beginning so that your legs do not cramp and to protect from injuries. Dynamic stretches will warm up your body to prepare for where ever your walking takes you. Warming up protects your body from many injuries and accidents that can happen if your body is not prepared for activity. Safeguard your fitness goals by implementing a few dynamic activities at the start of each walking session.
As recommended before beginning any new activity talk with your doctor about the best stretches to implement. Having a conversation with your doctor is especially important if you have range of mobility issues that may prevent certain actions. Also if you would like to discuss dynamic stretches more stop by the forum, I would love to know what you have on your mind as you walk for your health.