• Spring
      • video

        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.

        Solace and Giant Salamanders in Akiota

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.
    • Summer
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
    • Winter
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
      • video

        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
    • River and Lake
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
    • Travel
    • Food and Drinks
    • Races and Events

Stretching…The Truth

Since grade school P.E. class you’ve been told to “always stretch before any type of physical activity.” While in principle this is sound advice, the way you stretch may not be as useful as you’ve been led to believe.

For most people, stretching involves moving a muscle into an elongated position and holding it there for 30 to 60 seconds. Technically this is called “static stretching,” but recent research shows it provides minimal injury prevention at best and, at worst, can actually decrease athletic performance.

What’s the point?

Before any sports activity, it’s important to understand what you are trying to accomplish by stretching. Many times you want to prepare your body for explosive dynamic movement. Groups of muscles need to be properly activated, so they are ready to forcefully contract and relax in a rapid, coordinated manner that will bend, twist and propel your body to meet the demands of the sport.

Since all of this movement is orchestrated by your nervous system, it is essential to get that fired up too, communicating well with your muscles. Simply pulling on some muscles for a few minutes just does not prepare you for dynamic movement.

Furthermore, static stretching has a sedating effect on your nervous system, actually causing drowsiness and decreasing your reaction time—obviously not a good combination prior to hopping on that surfboard or mountain bike.

Length Matters

Stretching should be done via movement to prepare your body for the activities ahead. Begin by rotating and articulating all of your major joints—ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulder, elbows, wrists and neck. Start gently and slowly increase the force and range of motion as the joints start moving more freely.

You are striving to establish normal muscle length through a natural range of motion. Muscles have an optimal functional length and work synergistically in groups to produce movement around joints. Actively moving joints through a range of motion helps your nervous system correctly set muscle lengths within the groups.

Another pitfall of pre-game static stretching is the habit of targeting one or two muscles in a group, which over-lengthens them in relation to the others. This ultimately disrupts the group’s ability to produce efficient movement and inhibits sports performance.

Once free motion around the joints is established, you should engage in light movement patterns that mimic the activity you will be doing; start off easy and gradually increase to the intensity you would use for the sport. For example, if you’re going surfing, this might include squats, lunges, trunk-twisting and even going through the “pop-up” movement.

For running or biking, you can actually start the activity at a very low intensity for the first five or 10 minutes and gradually increase to your desired level. You should avoid moving in ranges far beyond what you actually need for the sport. A common misconception is that muscles should be really stretched out and loose when, in actuality, certain muscles need to be shorter and tighter as they provide stabilization during movement.

Static stretching is an important technique, but it is most useful at the end of your sporting activity. Correctly applied to the muscles that were frequently contracted, static stretching can help prevent those muscles from becoming chronically shortened and help to release built-up lactic acid, thus reducing muscle soreness.

For further information, the author can be reached at info@somatic-systems.com.

[novo-map id=2 individual=”yes”]

Outdoor Japan logo tree


Latest posts