Like it or not, winter is here for several more weeks. One way that outdoorsy people make the best of this season is by participating in winter sports like skiing, hockey, ice skating, and snowboarding. These adrenaline-triggering sports can liven up January and February like no other activities. They can also cause injuries if a sportsman/sportswoman doesn’t stretch correctly.
The “Don’ts” of Stretching
When it comes to health and wellness tips, we hear a lot of “dos”: do drink a lot of water, do exercise often, do sleep eight hours a night, and do eat fruits and vegetables. The same goes for stretching. We are told to stretch before and after working out and are encouraged to try specific stretches. But those who indulge in sports need to be as aware of the “don’ts” of stretching as they are the “dos.” For example…
- DON’T stretch after you wake up – Do you ever stretch upon waking? If so, it’s time to stop. John Paul Catanzaro, CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist, said, “ Don’t stretch first thing in the morning, especially if you have a low-back injury. Wait at least one hour after awakening. While you sleep, your spine swells with fluid, and the risk of injury is heightened if you stretch right after you wake up.”
- DON’T stretch if you are already very flexible – Did you know that stretching to become more flexible when you are already super flexible doesn’t benefit you? In a situation like this, stretching simply isn’t needed. However, it is wise to do some basic stretching before and after participating in winter sports.
- DON’T hold your breath during a stretch – Do you have the bad habit of holding your breath when you stretch? If so, break it! Holding your breath during stretching may indicate that you are pushing yourself too hard and stretching too intensely. It also tenses the muscles. In the article 6 Good Reasons You Need to Stretch, Shape Magazine contributor Ysolt Usigan wrote, “Hold the stretch at the first sensation of resistance, then breathe your way through it. Imagine and feel the muscle tissue becoming more supple. Modify, adapt, and adjust the stretch to suit your particular needs. Use padding under your knees, for example, or try the same stretch sitting down, lying down, or standing up if it’s more comfortable for you.”
- DON’T use static stretches before training – According to John Paul Catanzaro, mentioned above, you should not use static stretches on muscles you are about to train. He wrote, “…this practice (of static stretching) tends to sedate the muscles, and research shows it will decrease strength and power. Also, static stretching prior to activity may actually cause injuries, not prevent them. Although some exceptions apply for very tight muscles, for the most part, you should perform static stretching after activity or exercise.”
Stretching should be part of any sportsperson’s anti-injury plan, especially as it relates to winter sports. Also, if you’re serious about preventing injuries, let a physiotherapist teach you good stretching practices.
How are you keeping yourself healthy and injury-free during this winter sports season?