Everybody knows that feeling of muscle soreness after playing a sport. Your legs feel heavy and hurt with every step. Your core hurts when you look in different directions or even try to get up from a seated position. It’s extremely annoying and feels like a type of punishment for trying to exercise.
Making sure you stretch properly before a game is key to helping your body cope with not only the physical demands of playing, but also recuperation. Without stretching, you are putting your body at risk for injuries that can keep you on the sideline for weeks or even months.
As a sports administrator, you should also consider stretching as a point of risk management – while accidents and injuries are covered in most insurance packages, whether it’s youth football league insurance or an adult soccer league’s policy, stretching and warming up players avoids injuries and potential lawsuits.
There are a few simple, easy steps for stretching and warming up that will prevent injury. Learn why athletes need to warm up and the proper way to do so.
Why is Warming Up Important?
Before you begin any type of stretching, you need to warm your body up. A light jog or walk for a few minutes will be sufficient. A warm-up is vital, as athletes the need to get their heart rate up so their body is able to increase its blood flow. This allows more oxygen and blood to reach the muscles. By doing this, you are preparing the body to be physically active.
It’s similar to a car engine. When you start driving, you need to allow the engine to heat up before driving at full throttle. If you don’t, there’s a chance the car can breakdown because it wasn’t prepared to run as hard as it was.
Why is Stretching Important?
Stretching without a warm-up can actually hurt you, so it’s important to warm up first. You can create an opportunity for injury if you stretch cold muscles.
To maximize the effects of a good stretch, raising your heart rate and increasing blood flow is more valuable than some people realize. It prepares your body for the physical demands of a game, as well as giving you time to mentally prepare. So when you are warming up, make sure you add some intervals of stretching in between. As your heart rate rises and blood flow increases, stretch the muscles out so the blood and oxygen can reach the muscles and remove the harmful toxins from them.
Proper Stretching Techniques
There are many ways to stretch different parts of your body. Depending on the game you are playing, or the physical activity you are involved in, stretching properly is important. Doing a simple stretch for two seconds isn’t really that helpful. You want to hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds without any extra movement.
If you are stretching a leg muscle by bringing your foot up to your backside, you want to make sure you are balanced properly. Bouncing up and down while stretching can actually cause a muscle to tear or become damaged.
Stretching also should not hurt. Yes, you should be a slight burning feeling, but nothing that is strenuous. If you are in the middle of a stretch and the muscle begins to hurt, you should stop immediately. It could be as simple as improper form, but it could also be a warning for a serious injury. If the pain continues you should consult your coach or trainer so they can make sure you get the proper medical attention or correct your form.
Why is a Cool Down Important?
When you finish playing a game, your body needs time to cool down gradually. As you exercise, your heart rate increases tremendously and the veins expand to allow for increased blood flow. If you don’t allow your body time to cool down, it can lead to soreness and even dizziness or fainting. This is because the blood can pool up in the lower half of your body and not circulate properly.
A proper cool-down can consist of light cardiovascular exercise mixed in with some stretching after your workout. Using a muscle roller can also be helpful as well.
This is basically a similar type of activity as the warm-up, with a different objective. When you warm up you are trying to increase the heart rate and blood flow. A cool down is trying to do the complete opposite. You want to gradually reduce your heart rate and contract your veins so your body doesn’t continue to work as hard as it was when you don’t need it to.
Warm Up, Stretch, and Cool Down Every Time
Ensuring your body is prepared and ready for physical activity is extremely important. It protects you from injuries as well as soreness the next day. Your body needs to be taken care of properly in order to live a long and healthy life. Following the steps of preparation before any intense physical activity can help make sure of that.