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Updated January 22, 2016 | By Bob Fugett

Never Stretch (ever)

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    Bob working on his aero position while assiduously not stretching.

This is one concept you should be able to get in less than a second. That's good too, because you are going to have to work on it for your entire life.

The most repeated error in athletics is stating the absolute benefit (and necessity) of stretching.

Don't you dare do it.

Don't do it today. Don't do it tomorrow. Don't do it at the beginning of a workout. Don't do it at the end of a workout. Don't do it during a workout. Don't do it at the office. Don't do it at home. Don't do it anywhere.

Just don't do it—never ever never. Not at all.

Here's the problem. Stretching is the worst possible thing for your muscles, your tendons, and your joints.

Stretching is what you do to rubber bands and the truth, but it is certainly not what you want to do to any part of your body.

What you should be doing to your muscles is relaxing them.

Practice relaxing constantly and in absolutely every situation mentioned above.

Practice relaxing today. Practice relaxing tomorrow. Do it at the beginning of a workout. Do it at the end of a workout. Do it especially during a workout and even more especially during a competition. Do it at the office (but don't get caught), and do it at home. Do it everywhere and all the time.

But don't try to relax your ligaments, because they can't.

Ligaments are your last line of defense against injury; and, if they ever do get relaxed, they will stop hurting at the right time, and you are headed for major trouble.

On the other hand, if you relax your muscles enough your tendons will eventually follow along a little which is ok, actually good.

You just need to relax your muscles for the right amount of time which (in a nutshell) means: forever and a day and all the time in between.

Relax each muscle group and every muscle in each group (see: Anatomy of Movement for what is where) and do it for at least 30 seconds (15 seconds absolute minimum) a few times a day.

It is easy to know exactly the moment you stop relaxing and start to stretch because it hurts, and if you ignore that pain you will receive a sharper more dangerous pain from associated ligaments—your last line of defense against joint injury.

Bad, bad, bad. Don't do it.

The odd thing about it is that if you thoughtfully do the same relaxation exercise day after day you will gradually need to reach further into it in order to find where the pain begins.

The best way to learn relaxation is by studying books about stretching.

Do all the exercises exactly as described, except don't stretch—relax.

The better books on stretching will mention this.

At this point most books would tell you to get some professional help because churning up revenues is how this industry works.

But let us not kid ourselves.

You have already thrown away all your money on a fancy bicycle and power meter, so you cannot afford professional help.

Just read all the books and practice so you will have something to discuss with your trainer if you ever get rich enough to afford a practitioner again—after you hurt yourself.

It could happen.

I just saw a yoga video online that began with a long disclaimer how none of the exercises should be attempted without seeing a professional first.

I thought out loud, "Nobody needs professional help with this. It is not that complicated."

But after the first suggested posture was shown I continued, "Oh, that exercise. Yeah, you might like to talk to somebody about that one before you try it. Can't believe they put that here first, like it was nothing."

It looked simple enough, but I knew better because things are not always what they seem.

For example, take the photo of me doing Child Pose at the top the page.

What you see took a few months preparation.

Then on the day of the performance I began very high with my head supported by my hands on pillows.

I came down slowly, relaxing by degrees, suffering through significant pain when not careful, then tamping down or removing a pillow, or an inch or two of elbow, thumb, palm, finger support whenever I stabilized into any one of the few hundred transitional positions on the way down.

The whole thing took 45 minutes and was a Personal Best at the time.

I only allowed myself any pain at all because that posture is the only thing I ever showed my chiropractor (about what I was doing for my back) where he did not wince like I was kicking babies.

He only said, "Oh, good. Child Pose is perfect."

On the other hand, dear reader, if you should ever attempt what you see me doing above, you will be sorry, because it is not for sissies and you will not be able to endure such pain.

I am allowed to do such stuff because the last time I saw my chiropractor (sometime before that photo) it was pointed out to me that I had not been there in three years, and that was four years ago.

Also I am working on a World Record 1-hour Time Trial, but you are not.

In fact, you are not really working on much of anything at all, so don't even think about trying such a feat of pure manliness.


See how easy it was to challenge you to jump beyond what you should be doing?

Therefore, if you are not absolutely certain, and especially if you forget the first rule (like most people do), you might like to get into a class.

Yoga, Pilates, Martial Arts, Aerobics, whatever.

In the meantime, here's that rule again, because I am sure you have forgotten.

Remember: Never ever never stretch. Relax.



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