I'm rarely sore from playing sports because I play almost every day. Is stretching before and after practice and games really that important? Stretch Curious, age 16 (Soccer & Basketball)
Dear Stretch Curious,
Not sore after all that activity? What’s your secret? Many athletes would love to know!
Muscle soreness can be uncomfortable, but it’s something most of us go through while building stronger muscles. Everyone’s body reacts differently to exercise though, so enjoy it.
Stretching IS important; and not for the reason you may think. Stretching does not reduce soreness. Stretching helps keep your muscles and tendons flexible, which reduces the risk of injury. When muscles and tendons are tight, injury is more likely.
Want to keep playing the sports you love? Here are a few things you can do to keep your muscles and tendons flexible.
PRE-exercise, an active warm up is best. Gently move your body through the motions you’ll be doing later at higher intensity. Here are some examples that work for both soccer and basketball: Light squats replicate jumping. Arm circles replicate shooting or throw-ins. Ask your coaches for more active warm ups for your sports.
AFTER your practice or game, static stretches are your best friend. Stretch until you feel a slight pull and then hold that position for 20-90 seconds. Pay attention to how you feel! Stretching should never cause pain. Repeat the stretch several times while breathing softly and relaxing.
Lastly, plan a stretch session after your ride home. After traveling, repeat your active warm up followed by gentle static stretches. This relieves tight muscles after a long car or bus ride and might even energize you for homework!
Most of all, these tips will help you feel better and keep you in the game.