Normally, there’s not much in the newspaper that makes me happy, but yesterday I discovered a piece in the New York Times that really made my day. The story, by Gretchen Reynolds, described all the reasons why we should not be stretching prior to a workout.
This made me happy because I don’t stretch. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to stretch, but it’s just not something my body wants me to do. I’m not special in this regard; most guys lack flexibility. It probably has something to do with an unwillingness to compromise. Who knows? We tend to be resolute.
The main reason we should avoid stretching, Reynolds explains, is because it loosens us up too much. Makes us “less able to store energy and spring into action.” She compares it to a worn-out elastic waistband. You stretch these things too much and they just won’t snap back into place. It’s really not any more complicated than that.
I should mention that we’re talking here about static stretching — your basic bend-down-and-touch-your-toes kind of stretching. Dynamic stretching is another thing altogether. Think jumping jacks, burpees and other vivid memories from junior high phy-ed classes. These kinds of moves actually prepare your muscles for action rather than loosening them up. (Check out this piece in EL on the whole stretching debate.)
Stretching after a workout is a different story. Even I will admit that a good stretch of the hip flexors after basketball or the quads after a bike ride is really quite sublime. And the stretches that result during my weekly yoga session can be rather eye-opening, as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them pleasant, but I’m told they’re good for me.
And I’m OK with that, because punishment via yoga carries a certain exotic allure that static stretching just cannot match. So I’m going to toss that bit of fitness advice into the trashbin of history and stop feeling inferior about not loosening up before my workouts. I may not be flexible, but I am resolute.