Musings on Stretching, Icing, Saunas…and Meditation!

I’ve written before about how it was only this past year that I began incorporating meditation into my daily routine. Well, there was something else I was very remiss until very recently, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, given the career path I’ve chosen. I wasn’t stretching. Hardly ever. I was barely foam rolling and I was far too on massage, ART, Graston and deep tissue to work out the tweaks and twinges. While I do incorporate pilates and yoga during my off season, there’s only so much time in the day, and in times like these, when I’m getting ready for ironman, something’s got to give. My work is a priority as is my body and yes, it makes sense for me to rationalize that I really don’t have time to go to a yoga or pilates class, there’s absolutely no good reason why I cannot find two 10-minute time windows during the course of each day to stretch and keep fluid. Keep in mind that even sustaining a couple of minor injuries over the years, like that torn hamstring back in 2011 or a mysterious pulled muscle that threw my back into spasm in 2013 wasn’t enough to put me in check! Gosh, I sure am stubborn! But this year, it took a change. When my beloved massage therapist passed away this past spring, I looked around for someone to work with in his proxy. I met with a couple of therapists who were strong, knowledgeable and good… but none had that quality of a healer that Bayard possessed. So I went back to basics. I saw the very psychical therapist who’d helped me adjust my run gait years and years ago, did a thorough evaluation and got a custom stretching routine, just for me. And wouldn’t you know? My body’s been feeling great ever since! Certainly, there are vastly different viewpoints on this topic. Some experts suggest stretching is a must-do (1), sometimes for long periods of time on a daily basis . Others state that stretching is can leave you feeling weak, wobbly and that it’s counterproductive. (2) . It’s not my call to determine who’s right or wrong, but just as I suggest doing with what you’re eating, try an experiment with what you’re doing for your own recovery from whichever physical activity and see what leaves your body feeling best. Stretching is free, can be done anywhere (although granted, you wouldn’t necessarily want to be implementing pigeon in the middle of a board meeting at your law office), anytime and with zero equipment. Aside from getting into the habit of a few trips to the sauna each week, as well as an ice bath after particularly intense or long sessions I’m back to being self sufficient. Why sauna… and ice? Regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep the heart healthy and extend life (3). And taking a cold plunge, post run, for example, results in hemoglobin levels being lower and tissue oxygenation higher in subjects’ in study who immersed their legs in an ice bath. These changes are what proponents of ice baths say make them effective, as they’re consistent with reduced swelling in muscle tissues (4). But then we go back to the same old question: where do we find the time? I had to take an honest look at training and peel something back. For example, a tempo run meant to last for 90 minutes, could be shorted to an hour fifteen, thus freeing up 15 minutes to stretch. Getting up 20 minutes earlier on a weekend to get out the door for an earlier bike / run brick, allows for that same 20 minutes to be tacked onto the end for an ice bath (which, of late, I’ve taken to doing with Insight Timer OMing in the background. If I, someone who’s admittedly a wimp when it comes to being cold, can do it, you can, too.) Bottom line: if you’re still adhering to old-school methodology of pounding out the miles without rhyme or reason, skipping important parts of treating your body well through stretch and recovery, whatever that may consist of for your own personal regime (and, yes, I’ve got to mention in: not paying attention to what you’re eating), all that time you’re spending training is not nearly as productive as it might otherwise be. Now get up out of your chair and stretch, people! (1) “Warm-up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016 (2) Reynolds, Gretchen. “Reasons Not to Stretch.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2016 (3) Tanjaniina Laukkanen MSc. “Sauna Bathing and Mortality.” Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA, 01 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2016. (4) @runnersworld. “Two Studies Back Benefits of Ice Baths.” Runner’s World. N.p., 26 May 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2016