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Feel Good: Take time before and after exercising to stretch. Your muscles will thank you.

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Story by COSHANDRA DILLARD // March/April 2017

There’s nothing like knocking out a taxing workout and then feeling the tension of exercise melt away with a good stretch.

Stretching is necessary. It not only helps the body prepare for a more vigorous workout or competition, but helps prevent injury and pain after a workout. Even if you don’t exercise regularly, stretching improves flexibility and mobility.

Static stretching involves remaining in one spot, whether seated or standing, touching or reaching. This includes touching the toes or stretching the arms across the chest. Static stretching helps lengthen muscles and is a good way to lower the heart rate and calm down after a workout.

Dynamic stretching is movement, such as lunges and squats, that facilities the flow of blood through the body.

“There are different people that have different opinions, but I prefer to do some static stretching and dynamic stretching before a workout and (use a) foam roll after a workout,” says Johnny Barrera, a personal trainer and owner of B-FIT Personal Training in Tyler, Texas.

Tara DeTamble, a personal trainer at East Texas Medical Center’s Olympic Center in Tyler, warms up with dynamic stretching before exercising  and then does static stretching later.

“Dynamic is probably better to start off with because it gets the muscles warmed,”  DeTamble says. “Stretches are good to do after the workout. When you walk, it helps to get fluid around your joints.”

BENEFITS

It takes time — about five to 10 minutes — to stretch effectively.

Because the shoulder and hamstrings affect other groups of muscles, they are key areas to concentrate on, DeTamble says. “Your hamstrings, calves and lower back are all connected. When your hamstrings are tight, you tend to have lower-back pain.”

Stretching the hamstrings helps relieve plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes.

DeTamble recommends that people stretch both in the morning and at night.

“If you sleep on the back, the foot falls forward,” she says. “When you get up in the morning and put feet on the ground, the calves get tight. Stretching in the morning and night seems to help some of those problems.”

Barrera advises to stretch with an exercise partner or trainer.  “No one stretches enough on a regular basis,” he says. “To really get a good stretch I recommend having a partner to apply additional pressure to areas that you can’t.”

Foam rolling — the use of a firm log to roll over muscles — is another way to help prevent soreness and pain. It doesn’t replace stretching but assists in the body’s recovery.

“Foam rolling is best done after your workout not only to increase blood flow but to help release knots and tight muscles,” Barerra says. “It helps get back to how you felt before your workout. I feel it is important for recovery to help reduce soreness and pain.”

DeTamble says foam rolling is “probably the best thing to do for your muscles. … It’s almost like getting a deep tissue massage.”

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