Warming up, stretching and flexibility…Put them together for optimal results!

    By Phys – Ed Trainer Jean Claude-Saucy

    Did you realize that warming up and stretching are two different things with different functions.

    Physiologically the main objective of a warm up is to increase blood flow to our muscles which then increases the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients needed during exercise.

    Warming up prior to physical activity has proven to help prevent injuries and increase athletic performance by also waking up our neuromuscular system- the highway communication of nerves between our brain and our muscles. In simpler words, a proper warm up prepares us physically and mentally for exercise.
    Stretching on the other hand helps with our flexibility. Flexibility is generally defined as the range of movement at a joint or a series of joints. And doesn’t only apply to the elasticity of our muscles but also the ability of the tendons and ligaments surrounding a joint to be stretched.

    JC at Phys-Ed says Strech for better Results

    Our initial response to a stretch or “Stretch Reflex” protects us from over-stretching and tearing a muscle. This initial reaction only lasts a few seconds and that’s why it is important to hold a stretch for a short period of time- at least 30 seconds.


    What this means is when we first get into a stretch we might feel our muscles are tighter than usual, but as our bodies hold the position or stretch, and our body realizes what is happening, our brain communicates with the rest of our body and allows it to simply give in to the stretch. This is when we feel some of the tension release. I like to think of our muscles as sponges. Once blood flow increases our muscles expand and internal temperature rises, then when we add a stretch we can maximize the lengthening of that given muscle and most importantly perform this in a much safer and efficient way.

    When I played varsity basketball in high school, my coach would have the entire team form a circle and begin stretching. Coach would consider stretching our warm up.

    Because I had been educating myself and realized that the stretching was not enough, I began small positive changes in my routine. I started jogging a few laps around the court before our stretching. I found the light jog before stretching made a big difference.

    I received my yoga instructor certification at the age of 15. An experience I will never forget. An intense 200hr course in one month. Eight hours of yoga a day including studying its different principles and philosophies. I began incorporating yoga principles into my warm up and at the same time maintain my flexibility through its stretches. The symbiotic relationship of combining warm-up movements and poses with stretching, became my routine. It increased my body temperature and prepared my body better than simply jogging around the court. I found enjoyment in sharing these practices with my teammates the coaches asked me to instruct a yoga-type warm up for the entire team. Soon after it became our standard warm-up before every practice and game.

    The importance of cross-training.

    Cross-training focuses on overall conditioning: Muscular Strength, Cardiovascular Strength, Flexibility, Balance. This not only helps us from getting bored with our workout routines but also can help us prevent overuse injuries, among many other benefits.

    If you are, or wish to become a cross-athlete, I invite you to “Be a Grunt for the Day” and try my new Yoga for Grunts class Tuesday mornings at 5:45am and 10:15am.

    In this class the flows are put together with the goal of intensely warming up the muscles and allowing them to fully and comfortably stretch and relax; all using nothing but your own body weight and a mat.

    Consider this another tool to bring with you wherever you go and a new approach to fit into your own active lifestyle!