LifeWorks Campfire Series: Flexibility
Flexibility training for hikes, treks or climbs
While often ignored and skipped, flexibility training is a fundamental component of any physical fitness program. Not only does it help to ease discomfort associated with muscles soreness it is of great importance to injury prevention. Stretching is especially important when it comes to multi-day treks, giving your body the recovery needed to get back on the trail day after day.
As you exercise the muscles experience small micro-tears in their fibres. While these micro-tears provide the signal telling the body to increase muscle strength, they also cause muscle soreness and small adhesions which functionally shorten the muscle. By stretching after your exercise session you can help return the muscle to its pre-exercise length and prevent some of this soreness. By taking this proactive step you can ensure the muscles remain at an optimal length. Additionally, should muscle imbalances exist (for example a tight chest resulting in slouched posture) these can be corrected by stretching (and in some cases strengthening the opposing muscle group). Here are the general parameters for stretching
Frequency – in general you should be stretching at minimum as frequently as you exercise (cardio or strength), however if you are apt to skip stretching after your other workouts you can also build flexibility training into your program by adding a special stretching session in on alternate days (this is even ok to do on your day off per week). The bottom line is there is only one real rule about stretching – do it when your muscles are warm. This could be after your shower in the morning, while your coffee is brewing or as a midday break. Do it when you’ll actually make it happen!
Intensity – stretching by nature should be very light. Go to the point of tension and then release slightly. Stretching should never be painful. Enjoy the relaxing component of your program!
Time – to return your muscles to pre-exercise length you need to stretch for 15-30 seconds. To see increases in flexibility you can extend each stretch to 30-60 seconds and/or repeat each stretch two times.
Type – there are several different types of stretching: dynamic stretching (such as arm circles or leg swings); active stretching (where an outside force like a partner creates the stretch); static stretching (where stretches are held for a period of time). For the purposes of simplicity and for this type of training we recommend static stretching. Go into the pose, hold for a period of time and then release. Do not bounce in your stretch. This causes injury to the muscle.
Click here for a Total Body Stretching Routine handout.