You Were Born to Stretch. Not!

by Dr. Christopher on September 12, 2011

Hold on "dinner." Stay here while I stretch first. - Courtesy of floodlama

Imagine this.

You’re a caveman, your typical hunter-gatherer.

Not just a Homo sapien with hunter-gatherer genes in the twenty-first century (which you are), but an actual caveman.

You live in a cave or a hut made of sticks or a tree next to a dozen other families that live in similar homes.

You have a partner that you enjoy spending time with and that helps you do life’s activities, such as rebuilding your home when the storm knocks a wall off or gathering water from a nearby stream.

You have offspring that spend their time roaming and playing games with the other children of your tribal community.

You’re eating Paleo (like you have a choice!), moving around all day, and living mostly-stress free.

Life is good.

Until …

Tony the Tiger shows his face (not from the Frosted Flakes brand, but a real tiger who wants dinner-YOU).

Or perhaps news gets back to your tribe that your child is hanging off a cliff and only has minutes left to hang on.

Or the only deer (and thus food) in months walks on by and you need to give chase.

What happens next is that your flight -or-flight system (ie. your stress response) is activated.

And you take off sprinting!

Imagine this scenario.

Did you leave enough time for stretching or warm-up?

A healthy body does not need stretching.

Our environmental conditions today have taken most activity out of our everyday lives.

We can sit down for most of the day, specializing in a skill that gets us paid, and outsource the rest of our lives to a maid, mechanic, landscaper, doctor (with cholesterol-lowering medications to combat your inactivity), handyman, carpenter, plumber, electrician, cook, waiter or waitress, etc.

When we think of movement, we think of going to the gym in order to “stay healthy”, not as “I need to move to survive in the immediate future.”

All of the sitting we do allows our body to weaken (according to the use-it-or-lose-it principle) and lets adhesion or scar tissue develop (which further weakens our muscles and causes the tightness that leads to injury).

It is this weakness and scar tissue that gives us a smaller bucket already full of sand, leading to injury.

What do we do with this information?

1.  Continue stretching and foam-rolling anyway, even when it doesn’t seem to be working.  

Most of us are biomechanically screwed based on our sedentary development.  We need to stretch to prevent injury.

2.  Re-create our hunter-gatherer’s movement-filled environments as much as practical in today’s world.

Moving more often from now on can slow down the adhesion/scar tissue/tightness snowball that picks up momentum with inactivity.

3.  Work on all 10 fitness attributes.

Yogis (people who do yoga) are on one side of the spectrum, emphasizing flexibility.  Olympic lifters and strong men are on another side, emphasizing strength.  Bodybuilders emphasize muscle growth (although big muscles do not always equate to big strength).

Sometimes we forget that health is a big picture with many facets.  Crossfit does a great job of emphasizing 1o attributes to fitness (agility, accuracy, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, power, strength, speed, stamina).

Lift heavy.  Stretch.  Lift fast.  Swim.  Walk.  Run.  Lift long.  Jump.

A biomechanically efficient body covers all of the fitness attributes.

A biomechanically efficient body will keep you pain-free as you age, into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and  (dare I say) 100s.

4.  Seek a knowledgeable Active Release Technique or Manual Adhesion Release practitioner to restore your ranges of motion back to normal.

When a person can touch their toes (which is normal), this person is less likely to have hamstring, hip, and low back issues then someone who can’t.

A qualified practitioner can restore this range of motion and others much more quickly than you can just through stretching, sometimes in a matter of one to a handful of visits.

How much stretching do you need to do in order to feel good when exercising?

Dr. Christopher Stepien is a chiropractor, chronic pain specialist, and A.R.T. provider, and clinic director of the Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic in Morristown, NJ.  He practices out of Guerrilla Fitness: Crossfit Morristown and Crossfit Montclair.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

střechy May 27, 2012 at 3:38 am

I am now not positive the place you are getting your information, but great topic. I must spend a while learning much more or understanding more. Thank you for wonderful information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

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