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Next-level stretches

Posted: October 13th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Get Fit, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle | No Comments

By Erica Moe | Get Fit

Everywhere you go, people are taking fitness to the next level. Boot-camp lovers turned to Crossfit; Zumba enthusiasts dove into Aqua Zumba; yoga innovators took to aerial yoga; and cardio die-hards increased the challenge with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

You may wonder: “How can I kick it up a notch for my flexibility?” The answer: facilitated stretching.

(Courtesy YMCA)

Odds are that your typical workout includes several components of physical fitness like cardiovascular endurance, and muscular strength and endurance. But many routines are lacking a valuable component: flexibility.

Our lifestyles have us seated — now more than ever. We sit during work, the commute and meals. All of this sitting can lead to tighter muscles that need to be stretched. It’s true: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it — flexibility, that is. Around the age of 30, we begin to lose about 1 percent of flexibility per year.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching at least two to three times per week. Stretching will increase range of motion, blood flow and circulation. And, a good stretch is a great release of tension.

If you stretch now, it is likely that you are doing static or dynamic stretches. Static stretching is when you find a position and hold it for 10-30 seconds, like a sit and reach. Dynamic stretching is moving through a range of motion while stretching, like at the beginning of a group exercise class.

(Courtesy YMCA)

The next-level stretches that are gaining popularity are proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching, active isolated stretching (AIS) and myofacial release (MR). These stretching techniques allow the capability to alter the timing, and possibly overcome, the stretch reflex, which is the body’s way of protecting the muscle from being stretched too far.

During traditional stretching, your body actually resists the stretch.  However, if the stretch reflex was avoided; research states that muscles could be stretched 160 percent more. When facilitated, a trainer can ensure your spine is stabilized and your movements focus on the specific muscles being targeted. Their hands-on guidance, knowledge and skill can help you get the most out of your stretch.

Here is what to expect from the different stretches:

  • AIS is held for no longer than two seconds, which allows the target muscles to lengthen without activating the protective stretch reflex. Perform one or two sets of five-10 repetitions.
  • PNF is a hold-relax technique. You contract the muscle that you are lengthening for a minimum of six seconds followed by a 10- to 30-second assisted stretch.
  • MR is when you move back and forth on an object, like a foam roller, for 30-60 seconds to help work out the knots over a 2-to-6-inch area.

Want to have a facilitated stretch experience? You have many options, including the Stretch Zone, Stretch Station and Stretch U. Each has its own unique combination of the next-level stretches that are facilitated by staff.  Sessions typically run in 20, 40 or 60 minutes. Not quite ready for facilitated stretching, but want to try a stretching class led by a certified instructor? Visit Mission Valley YMCA at 6:55 p.m., Tuesdays; 7:35 p.m., Thursdays; 6:30 p.m., Fridays; or 7:15 a.m., Saturdays.

— Erica Moe, M.S., is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA, where she is fitness instructor.

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