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Here’s the thing: If you’ve always believed in stretching and hailed it as the miracle solution to staying injury-free, soreness-free while hoping it’ll help complement and enhance your athletic abilities, you may have overstretched the concept beyond its actual capacities. If you’ve never believed in stretching… well, let’s just say it’s not what your body wants you to change that belief.

‘Stretching is natural to humans, it is a natural movement that both and animals do,’ explains Dr. Wilbour Kelsick. In animal world, they stretch because it enhances their tissues capacity to better respond to their required daily activities, such as finding food.

Stretching is a natural behavior for the body’s tissues, Kelsick says, and it seems to help tissues regain their elasticity and vitality.

Whether you believe in stretching or not, one important thing to remember is tissues and organs do not function independently of each other, but as a complex system where connection is key, therefore thinking of your body as a whole when stretching is where you should start. Muscles, ligaments and bones are involved in moving, but your locomotion-prone body has more to it, explain Dr. Kelsick, and that is fascia.

Fascia forms a continuous network of tissue that connects all of the above and the rest of organs and tissues in the body. Its role, obviously important, has been overlooked for a long time.

‘We have to integrate fascia network when we talk about stretching,’ says Kelsick.

This is bound to make you rethink your stretching routine. Your stretching routine has to match your type of athletic activity first of all and that means, in plain terms, explains Kelsick, that a long-distance runner will have less need for increased flexibility than say, a hurdler or a gymnast. They both need resilience, but the last two require extra flexibility and elasticity, which stretching can help with.

Stretching can decrease performance if not done right or overdone, says Kelsick, because it makes tissues less elastic and less stiff. Stretching is very individualistic, one could say, even within the same sport. Wondering about whether stretching will improve performance if done right? Not necessarily, but if it complements your training routine and addresses not just separate tissues but the fascial network , your performance will increase simply because you address your body as a whole rather than separate tissues.

As for the timing of your stretching routine, here’s a first tip: don’t stretch at the beginning of your training routine. Muscles and the rest of your body need to be warmed up properly before you apply any kind of stretching. If you’re getting ready for a run, make sure you run slowly for 5 to 10 minutes before you attempt stretching. You can pick up the pace after that.

According to Dr. Kelsick, too much emphasis is put on stretching and not enough on strength and dynamic stability. You need to strengthen the tissues before you stretch them. Don’t grab the weights yet or head out for a marathon just yet. That’s not where it’s at either, explains Dr. Kelsick. It is about increasing your normal range of movement in a way that will not force your tissues in any way but help them become stronger, flexible and elastic to address a more challenging workout routine, whatever that may be.

If you’re wondering about the connection between stretching and a decrease in pain following workouts, you should know is that stretching will not decrease soreness, and no, soreness is not caused by an accumulation of lactic acid. We will explain why soreness happens, why you need it and how to avoid the worst of it.

The next few posts will focus on recovery routines as well as the explanation of why pain happens when we train and why it should not be feared. Also, you will find out what makes training successful, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned athlete.

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