Stretch Your Body; Stretch Your Mind
Dear Kosterina Family,
Stretching is not just for athletes – there are so many advantages for people of all ages and fitness levels for both the body and mind. I’m sure you already know it enhances flexibility but it also improves posture, reduces muscle tension, and even fosters a stronger mind-body connection.
Ok, so to understand stretching, we need to understand the different kinds of stretches:
- Dynamic Stretching: this incorporates multiple muscle groups to deliver a wide range of movements. Think: Yoga and Pilates.
- Static Stretching: this is when you stay in a single position to stretch out a certain muscle group. Think: the classic hamstring stretch.
Next, it is important to understand how stretching actually affects our muscles. Our muscles aren’t just elastic like a rubber band that bounces back to its original form. They are made up of many different, complex fibers, making them “viscoelastic”. Viscoelasticity means that when we stretch something, it stays in place temporarily. Think of it like a memory foam mattress. When you press down on it, it will stay, but after a while, it will return back to its original position.
Our skeletal system, as it pertains to muscles, is composed of tendons and protective tissues like elastin and collagen. These allow our muscles to elongate over the time of a stretch. Deeper within our muscles are millions of sarcomeres, the smallest unit of contracting muscle tissue. These long, fibrous proteins can stretch and contract to elongate muscle tissue respectively. This is what gives us the force to practice physical activity.
So, how can we stretch to permanently maintain longer muscle fibers, improve flexibility, and have more strength at even greater lengths? Sarcomeres are added and subtracted to our muscles depending on how frequently they are used. Since our skeletal muscles’ flexibility depends on additional sarcomeres, there is hope! So, if we want to improve our flexibility, this requires devoting some time, consistently, to a holistic stretching regimen.
Believe it or not, stretching can also making lasting changes to the brain:
- Pain Tolerance: The more that we stretch a muscle, the higher our pain threshold becomes, allowing us to stretch deeper and longer.
- Stress Levels: When we are stressed, our muscles become tight and tense, which can lead to discomfort and chronic pain. Stretching can reduce this discomfort, increase blood flow to our muscles and even increase serotonin levels (the hormone that stabilizes our mood).
One really great resource I’ve used to incorporate stretching into my weekly routine for pre-hab purposes (injury prevention) is Gymnastic Bodies (shoutout to our good friend and insane athlete, Adam Ferreri, and my husband Kostas for turning me onto this). The stretches are led by former USA Men’s Gymnastics Coach, Christopher Sommer (IG: @christophersommer1) There is a subscription required for their stretching routines but there is a 7-day free trial if you want to try it out. (We have no affiliation with the company).
Whether it be fitting in a few stretches at our desks, taking some time at the gym, or doing some basic stretches in front of the TV at night, we can be well on our way to living a longer and healthier life. For additional ideas on incorporating more movement into your routine, check out our post inspired by the book Built to Move, by mobility experts Kelly & Juliet Starrett.
Peace, Love, and EVOO,
Katina and The Kosterina Team
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