Stretching and regeneration
by M. Fekete Marcsi • Sep 10th, 2023

The body, which is constantly exposed to training and competitions, has a greater chance of sports accidents if we do not pay attention to sufficient stretching and regeneration. With the fatigue of the muscles, the sense of stability of the joint decreases, with which we perceive the position and movements of our body in space. By stretching, we prevent the shortening of the muscles, that is, we work on restoring the proper muscle length, thereby maintaining the flexibility of the muscles. So, stretching is an activity aimed at maintaining or increasing the flexibility and mobility of muscles and other tissues. As is well known, our muscles shorten during sports (e.g. running). Each contraction is followed by a relaxation during movement, however, due to prolonged stress, they are no longer able to relax completely after each contraction, as this also requires energy.

Stretching can be done statically, when you hold a position for 20-30 seconds and stretch the given area. Many people also stretch before training, mainly because after training, when regular and thorough stretching is missed, their muscles feel tight during the next exercise. However, static stretching should be avoided before training. It is true that it relaxes the muscles and the tissues around the joint, but it creates instability and we get injured during training, and by the way, it also reduces the effort and can slow down the reaction. So let's reserve static stretching for after training, but then don't be stingy with time.

However, it is important to note with static stretching that: - only warmed up muscles can be stretched - do not stretch further if it hurts, pain is our signaling device, everything is allowed as long as it does not hurt - we can only effectively stretch relaxed muscles, relaxation is easier when combined with proper breathing exercises

Compared to the previous one, dynamic stretching helps with exertion, it can even be used during the warm-up if you feel tight, thus helping your shortened muscles. During dynamic stretching, we only hold the movement for a few seconds and repeat it.

But apart from stretching, what else could we do to speed up our regeneration?

Who doesn't like a massage? It is especially useful for athletes, as it is a method of updating, during which the condition of the tissues, muscles and the functioning of the circulatory system can be improved, thereby allowing the rest period after training to last less. It is pleasant for both body and soul. It is not recommended immediately after sports, but you can lie down on the massage table 1 hour after training.

The SMR roller is a well-known device that athletes can use to massage themselves. This special roller treatment is based on a combination of pressure and movement. During rolling, the muscles and fascia are pressed against each other and thus become flexible. For this reason, it is also called myfascial self-massage. The SMR roller helps eliminate muscle tension and joint stiffness, loosens adhesions, stimulates circulation, reduces or prevents the development of muscle fever.

I encountered flossing therapy for the first time in the festival area during the Spartan competitions. This is a compression and mobilization technique that is performed using a longer special rubber band. The tape, which resembles a latex band, is wound with a certain strength on different points of the body (it is also available in several sizes, so the method can be used for many areas, from the thumb to the thigh) and then the area is moved and mobilized. This has an effect on the given joint/tissue, helping with pain in the connective tissue and muscles, relieving tension and adhesions.

We can also use thermal effects for our regeneration! A few hours after training, you can also regenerate in the sauna, as this increases blood circulation, thereby improving the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The flexibility of the sauna athlete can increase, the mobility of the joints increases, their friction decreases, the stiffness decreases and we can relax the joints better. At the same time, saunas are also effective if you follow the rules. In other words, after training, it is recommended to take a break of at least 30 minutes and wait so that the cardiovascular system is not under too much stress. Also, take a shower before sauna and don't forget to hydrate properly afterwards.

Cold baths and ice baths are also recommended immediately after training. With their use, the blood vessels with which the muscle reacts to the cold are narrowed and therefore able to break down lactate faster in the body, thereby avoiding sore muscles.

But we can also combine heat and cold in a regeneration activity. Mixing alternating hot and cold showers also ensures regeneration, as it helps to remove waste products from the muscles. The cold "sucks" the blood out of the currently working muscles, and the lactic acid is effectively removed. Capillaries open up in warm water, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow back to the muscle. (Recommendation: hot bath temperature 35-40 °C, cold bath temperature 10-15 °C, in the shower 1-2 minutes under hot water, 30 seconds under cold water, repeat this three or four times)

We can also regenerate by staying active. We close the training with an activity, a sports game, which has nothing to do with the previous training work, so that the body is exposed to other stimuli and better processes the muscle fever that is starting to develop in the body.

Not everyone finds themselves in the world of yoga. Running, long interval training, burpees, and weight training are all fast and intense activities that are with us several times a week, and besides these, we think little of slow, measured stretching movements, such as yoga. Incorporating this form of movement into your training can help you become more flexible, but you can also use it as a preventive measure against injuries. Here, the emphasis is not only on movements, but also on breathing. In this way, we can help not only our physical but also our mental health.

We can do a lot to regenerate our body with proper nutrition and the correct fluid intake. It is important to provide our body with as many different nutrients as possible after training and competitions. (protein, fats, carbohydrates) Since the most important thing is to get nutrients within 30 minutes after training, and I have a hard time taking in solid food at that time, I always start with my recovery drink. This helps my little body recover and I take in solid food about 1.5-2 hours after training.

Of course, quality sleep is also on the list that supports the regeneration of an athlete. The daily sleep requirement of elite athletes has been determined at 7-9 hours and they are made aware that sleep is just as important as training. Okay, okay, I know... Not all adults can handle a long, satisfying night's sleep, or don't have that much of a need for sleep. However, a sleep break before training also has a positive effect on human performance. This is a short sleep of a maximum of 15 minutes (calculated from the time of falling asleep). I get used to a 40-minute rest before training, especially when I feel that the working day has been stressful, it takes just that much time for my brain to switch off and finally I can really recover with a 15-20 minute nap.

It is certain that the better the endurance of the athlete, the sooner the body is able to regenerate, however, neglecting stretching and regeneration can be detrimental to performance. It is time to finally not think of all of this as a necessary evil, but as the way that performance can be improved by regularizing these activities, therefore these processes must be strongly supported. Sport and regeneration simply go together.

Stretching and regeneration

M. Fekete Marcsi Spartan Brand Ambassador Hungary

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