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Do This During Exercise To Reduce Pain

Flexpower Fitness - Before you get moving, you might have some questions. We're here to do what we can to help.

It’s all about momentum, right?  We don’t mean the actual momentum you gain from, say, moving your legs faster or cresting a hill and biking down the incline. No, we mean the mental momentum that takes you from getting up and deciding to get some kind of exercise to seeing that activity through to the end. “Get moving. Stay moving” is the goal, but we know it’s not always easy.

The last thing you want to do is stop once you make the commitment to keep exercising, but can frequent stretch breaks help you avoid pain later on?

To start, let’s consider what happens to your body when you start exercising.

The Three Stages

A woman stretching on the beach
  • As Soon As You Begin:

The minute you start exercising, your body responds by stimulating the processes you need for that particular activity, and inhibiting the ones you don’t. So, for example, your respiratory system kicks into high gear, but your digestive system slows down.

  • After the First 10 Minutes:

By this point, your heart rate has increased, meaning there is an increased flow of blood to your brain, which makes you more alert, and also blocks pain signals. The body will then tap into different energy systems depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise – like, if you’re doing weight training, it will prioritize blood flow to the muscles being activated. 

  • An Hour After:

The body would prefer not to waste any energy at all, and it’s putting all of its effort into getting through the exercise as efficiently as possible so you can return to a normal state of balance. Your body will try to return to its resting state as quickly as it can, and the more fit you are, the better your body is at this. Everything that was ramped up slows down, and everything that was slowed down speeds back up.

Can Stretching Help?

A female runner stretches on bleachers

With so much going on in your body, is it preferable – or even safe – to stop and stretch to prevent possible post-exercise pain? According to Certified Personal Trainer and writer Jenessa Connor, the answer is likely “no.”

“For a typical 30-60 minute workout, you probably don’t need to stop and stretch,” says Connor. “Of course, if you get a muscle cramp or otherwise feel the urge to stretch, go for it. Athletes who have longer breaks between periods of activity may want to use dynamic stretches and mobility drills to keep their muscles warm and joints lubricated during their downtime.”

Stretching hasn’t been proven to be an effective deterrent for post-exercise soreness, but improving your mobility and flexibility can help guard against injury. But, as Connor explains, mobility is the more important of the two.

“Mobility is more important than flexibility. It’s more important to be able to execute full range of motion in basic functional movement patterns – and feel stable in those movements – than to be able to, for example, drop into the splits,” she says. “Regardless of your exercise routine, you squat, hip hinge, and lift your arms overhead in your everyday life, so it’s important to have the mobility to perform those movements properly and without compensations.”

So rather than concerning yourself with constant stretching – which can interrupt a routine and your body’s natural reactions to exercise – just make sure during activity that you can you execute a full range of motion easily without strain. You may still have some post-exercise soreness, but you will likely avoid more serious injury.

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