Suzy Faucheux has worked as a personal trainer for 19 years. Not coincidentally, her toned, trim physique would put many 19-year-olds to shame. She credits the SuperSlow protocol at One to One Personal Training (891-5121, 735 Octavia St.; www.onetoonepersonaltraining.com) — a weight-bearing workout based on slow, controlled movements — for her strength. Thorough stretching before a workout, however, provides the static yin to a weight-bearing workout's yang, and both are necessary to achieve the balance of strength and flexibility indicative of overall fitness.
Faucheux's favored series of stretches, outlined here, should be executed before any type of exercise. Performed before strength training, these movements increase blood circulation and improve flexibility of the joints. This not only improves the quality of the ensuing workout, Faucheux says, but also helps you bounce back from an intense workout faster.
"Stretching is important to ... reduce muscle soreness after an activity," Faucheux says.
Before stretching, warm up for three to five minutes. "Never stretch a cold muscle," Faucheux advises. "Stretches should generally be held anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. You want to stretch to a point of tension, not discomfort."
There's a time and a place for bouncing, but it's not during your stretching regime. Doing so can lead to injury, Faucheux warns.
"People bounce all the time," she says. "I see it constantly. [Stretching] should be static, which means without movement and not ballistic. Ballistic stretching can cause a pull and ... lead to injuries down the line."
Make sure you maintain good form and posture. "The joints that are helping stabilize (you) so that you can stretch opposing muscles should be relaxed," she says.
When it comes to the stretches you perform, you can, to an extent, let your intuition be your guide. "People do their own thing (when stretching) — what feels good, what comes naturally," Faucheux says. "As long as they're holding it in a static state, it's fine." Here are a few of Faucheux's favorite stretches to get you started.
Standing with the front portion of your foot on a stable platform, allow your heel to drop until you feel a stretch in the calf muscle. As with all stretches, hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
Sit back into a bow, extending one leg forward with toes pointed at the ceiling. Bend the knee of the supporting leg and bow over the thigh of the straight leg, working to bring your nose to your toes.
Inner thigh stretch
Face forward and lunge to one side with the leg you are stretching straight and the other knee bent into a lunge. Keep the knee of the stretched leg relaxed.
The hip flexor is the muscle at the top of the thigh, and runners especially should focus on stretching it before exercise. Starting from the lunge position, bring one heel up and forward into an upright staggered position. The back heel lifts slightly and the same buttock pushes forward.
Balancing on one foot, grab the ankle of the opposing leg. Keep the stabilizing knee relaxed, the pelvis forward and do not arch the back.
Balance the bottom half of one leg on the opposite knee and sit back, stretching the outer thigh.
Inner Thigh Squat
Go into a squat, using your arms to push the knees away from each other. Keep the thighs straight and parallel with the ground.