Anyone old enough to remember the old Gumby and Pokey claymation television show?
Well I certainly am! I'm pretty certain that is where the term Gumby manifested in relation to flexibility as gumby was a malleable figure made out of clay that could be molded any which way. I was considered a certified "Gumby" throughout most of my career........meaning I was very flexible. Now as a dancer that is a great attribute to have but also a very dangerous one if you do not have the strength to match. We will discuss more on strength at a later time.
To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?
Well in my own humble opinion stretching is a necessary aspect of life. We all do it even if we're not aware of it. When we yawn we stretch. When we get up from sitting or lying down too long we stretch. If you're and athlete or even just a weekend warrior you probably stretch. So yes, we all stretch, but how much and what kind of stretching do we all need?
Now, I was a dancer and once a dancer always a dancer. Stretching was an intergral part of my daily routine. It was what I did when I awoke, what I did before class, before rehearsal, before performance and yes before bed. Maybe a little excessive but ask any dancer and that will seem the norm. To this day I have a morning and evening ritual of stretching. It's shortened since having children but it used to be a regular thing for me much like meditation.
For those who are not avid exercisers and who don't even know where to begin when it comes to stretching have no fear.......stretching is for everyone.
It does not have to involve a huge time commitment, but stretching can end up giving you huge results! Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect from a regular stretching program:
Reduced muscle tension
Increased range of movement in the joints
Enhanced muscular coordination
Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body
Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
And last but not least an increase in sense of well being
Types of Stretches
There are four different types of stretching:
Ballistic - stretching is a rapid bouncing stretch in which a body part is moving with momentum that stretches themuscles to a maximum. Muscles respond to this type of stretching by contracting to protect itself from over extending.
Dynamic- stretching is a walking or movement stretch. By performing slow controlled movements through full range of motion, a person reduces risk of injury.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation- (PNF) is a type of stretch for aparticular muscle and its specific job, so resistance should be applied, then the muscle should be relaxed.
Static- Static stretching is a type of stretch whereby a person stretches the muscle until a gentle tension is felt and then holds the stretch for thirty seconds or until a muscle release is felt, without any movement or bouncing.
See below for some basic stretching.