Category Archives: Fitness

Stretching 101

I was on the massage table when a young lady walked in…(heart skipped a beat)

“Do you stretch after your workout?”

“sometimes?” (most often, NO)

“Even if you said yes to me, I can tell you’re lying”

“Jonathan, you need to stretch every time when you finish you workout, ESPECIALLY when you’re putting your body through so much heavy weights”

“Yes Ma’am…”

She continued digging right into my calves as she worked through both my legs muscles to release tensions from weight training.

I was never a fan of stretching because by the time I am done with my workout, all I want is to jump in the shower, and get out of the gym. What benefits do I get from stretching? yah, i might feel a bit loosened, but I’m sure in time my body will recover anyway. So why bother?

It was only up until I begin to feel pain and tightness in my lower back, I started to include 5- 10 mins of stretching after my workout and reaped the benefits immediately. I feel better, the pain and tightness in my lower back’s gone.

So why do you need to stretch / start incorporating stretching to your workout?

  1. When you’re warming up for your workout, spend 5-10 minutes on stretching will help increase joint mobility, and blood flowing to the your muscles, which aids oxygen and nutrients exchange between cells. This will help optimize your workout so that you can lift heavier or exercise at a higher intensity.
  2. When you stretch, you prepare your body for better posture while you exercise. After a whole day sitting at your desk, we tend to round our shoulders, and hunch a little bit. If people start doing a shoulder press without stretching, often you’ll see most of them really arch their spine, or with a cable triceps pushdown, you see a lot of rounded shoulders, it’s how the body tries to compensate for lack of strength and bad technique.
  3. Muscles break down when you force them to grow through heavy lifting, and you know it from the soreness you feel the next day. White blood cells surround the torn muscle fibre, laying down new cells, and thats how you grow bigger muscles. If you think about it, stretching encourages the tear between muscle fiber which means more new muscle cells have to be built for recovery = happy days.
  4. Stretching increases flexibility. When you have better flexibility, you are able to exercise with full range of motion. It prevents unnecessary injuries and you will have better body coordination and balance which is very important as you get older.

How to start incorporating stretching into your workout routine?

  1. Start small, and gradually build it up. You don’t have to touch your toes straight away if you can’t. All you need to do is just gently let your body hang a little bit, allow your mind to connect with you body and it will tell you when it is ready to go further.
  2. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. If you’re just holding it for 10 seconds, it doesn’t really count because it won’t make any significant difference in lengthening muscle fibre.
  3. Remember to breathe. When you breathe, this is where you start tapping into that mental power to have mind body connection which allows the natural flow of energy to unclog any blockages or tightness.
  4. Stop if it starts to hurt. If it is slight discomfort, it is a challenge to work through it and you’ll reap the benefits once the discomfort has passed. But if it starts to hurt, your body is telling you that you’re not ready to go that far just yet. Patients my friend.
  5. Remember to stretch both sides. You don’t want to be lop sided do you? if you look in the mirror you can tell there’s a difference with your posture, either one side is tighter, traps are higher (tight shoulders), you might even have weird facial expression.

If you need help with stretching, try approach some gym trainers and ask for help. Most trainers have basic understanding to different types of stretching and are very happy to give you a few pointers to help loosen you up.

“The Intensity of stretching should increase and rejuvenate from moment to moment.” – Guruji Bks Iyengar

Image: Stretch and TwistCobra

No Fun No Gain

Day in day out, after you finish work, or in between lunch break, you get your gym gear, and rock up at your local gym. You have a fair idea where the stairs are, where you classes are going to be, the regulars, some of you have been doing Body Steps for the past 5 years, you know the routine so well you might as well just go be the instructor already?

for someone like me who loves my weights, I know where the machines are, where the free weights are placed, I pulled out my workout log, and I go through the motion everyday. It’s not just with workout, but everything in life, you get bored if you do it long enough. I am like, do I really have to do this again?

Today I learnt about what its like to have fun again, to see things, and really posture myself to learn working out from a new perspective. From the kids in the playground. You see parents brought them to playground almost every week, but some reason, they never get bored, you can see it in their blue eyes, its like they are discovering the terrain for the first time. Note that I use the word ‘terrain’. It is outdoor, where mother nature provides the best training ground.

Talk about doing weights for years, and put myself out there for 1 outdoor training session, it was FUN. And if you can find a few friends and do it together, play a few games, and get the competitive juices flowing, I’m never going back to gym again. It will like you are having a great time and you actually had a workout as well.

3 simple steps to create an outdoor workout for yourself.

  1. Know your terrain well. get to your local play ground (don’t fight with the kids), local park, football oval, or even trails where there’s uneven hills, and steps, this will get you started with your lower body exercises. Instead of running on treadmill, running on uneven surfaces will activate all your leg muscles, and you have to run consciously to avoid unexpected obstacles = FUN. To increase intensity / agility, pretend there’s a bear (or your mum) chasing you. RUN !!
  2. Learn from the animals. Do you know how ballet dancers get such beautiful legs? BUNNY HOPS. They do 3 sets of 50 bunny hops for warm up (harder version of grand plie) which prepares them for their actual performance, which requires them to do all kinds of bounds and leaps. MONKEY BARS, do you remember when you were a kid, and you would climb just about anything? what happened when you got older? it wasn’t because you got heavier, but because you stopped using the muscles.
  3. You are your own gym. If you can lift your own body weight doing push ups, pull up, inverted shoulder press / handstand, explosive lunges, and some bunny hops, you’ll be amazed how hard it is, and how strong you become in just a few weeks time. If push ups are too easy, try doing it with hands on a swing. If explosive jumping lunges are too easy, try jumping from one side of the bench to other and switch legs.

Yes, you’ll get people or kids look at you funny, some single mum / dad might even check you out. Remember to be kind and smile, and GET BACK TO YOUR WORKOUT!! One who is focus in the direction where they’re running / heading (finish your workout) is far more attractive than one who is getting distracted (getting hit by a pole) by butterflies.

Remember to have fun, learn to laugh and be child like again. Then, the universe is at your grasp.

Image: Bulldog, Sunset Kids