It’s probably safe to say that not all CrossFit enthusiasts are aspiring yogis waiting for the day to conquer the splits or a yogic headstand.
CrossFit goals tend to be more measured, revolving around heavy weights and faster times. That’s not to say flexibility is any less important in the sport of CrossFit. In fact, flexibility can often be a determining factor when it comes to achieving a PR on O-lifts and even zipping through WODs expeditiously.
Like all things CrossFit, improving flexibility takes time and that time should be spent stretching if you have visions of kissing your knees with straight legs and toes touching (something you’ve all thought about no doubt) or just simply going deeper and heavier in your overhead squat.
So this week I thought I would impart the benefits of stretching and having a flexible bod, not just when it comes to exercise
Stretching has a calming effect: Being zen is not only for yogis. Savasana can be achieved for all who stretch. As the muscles contract and lengthen the physical body relaxes, which then translates to a more relaxed and calm emotional state. If you’ve done any type of vinyasa yoga you’ll know what I mean, when I say stretching re-energises and relaxes.
Prepares the body for the pain ahead: Stretching allows the body to warm-up as it encourages the flow of blood to all the right places, being the muscles. The muscles then enjoy an oxygen supply and the nutrients needed to keep them going throughout a WOD.
Builds and elongates muscle: If washboard abs, a pair of guns and killer calves are on your wish list then stretching should be part of your CrossFit routine. Stretching allows you to move through the full range of motion when it comes to hitting weights, in effect creating long and full muscles instead of stunted ones. You know the ones I’m talking about, the stocky muscles that eventuate after too many Saturday night pushups.
Reduces the risk of injury: Just like vitamins are seen as preventative medicine for health by decreasing the likelihood of illness, stretching can be thought of as preventative medicine for the body by ensuring it stays mobile, flexible and best of all injury free. A flexible body means that your long muscles are not as susceptible to tearing so you have plenty of room to move if you’re attempting a heavy lift.
Stretching encourages fast recovery: There is a reason as to why we are trained to stretch before and after exercise. Not only does stretching warm the body but it does wonders for recovery and may just prevent the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle syndrome). Exercising creates toxins in the body as muscles are exerted. By stretching the muscles after exercise these toxins move into the bloodstream and out of the muscles, where they can be broken down and eradicated. So in effect, stretching after a tough WOD means that when you’re tying your shoelaces or walking up a set of stairs the next morning you won’t be left feeling like a string puppet who just had their ropes tightened.
Stretching gives you that flexy feeling: One of the by-products of stretching is quite obviously improved flexibility. With an increased range of motion you might find yourself capable of moving into positions otherwise deemed dangerous, not just in the box!
In many fitness arena’s stretching is often overlooked with so many of us eager to get on with the tough stuff, something even the uber flexible are guilty of. However, I think it’s important to remember that being flexible presents many benefits to the human body that are not just exercised in the gym.