For many years, I used to do stretches immediately after races. Why? Indeed, everybody agreed on the benefits of stretching just after a physical effort when the body is still warm. Personally, I never felt that stretching when the body is still warm helped me recover more quickly. But, because everyone seemed to believe in it, I did it like everybody else.
Then I experienced my first injury, followed by my second, and then my third, etc. Most of the time, it was a strained or torn muscle (not a fully torn muscle fortunately – so far I've always been spared from a major injury). And, oddly, the pain would often start when I was stretching after racing. As a result, I started to question myself about whether I should stretch when the body is still warm. What's more, I started to read a little more about the subject.
Like a miracle, new schools of thought were emerging on this issue: "Don't stretch when you're still warm! It increases the risk of injury! ". Yes, thank you, I'd noticed. But why does this increase the risk of injury?
I mentioned it a little earlier: over-stressing the body creates micro-lesions in the muscles. By stretching when you're still warm, there is a risk of increasing the size of these micro-lesions. Indeed, a warm muscle is more flexible and therefore, you can potentially increase the size of the micro-lesions by stretching it more than you normally would, and that's when it tears!
Having experienced this several times, I would agree with this school of thought: I no longer stretch while I'm still warm. I wait for 2 to 3 hours (often this is the time I need to shower, change, eat and get home) and then I do a big stretching session. Once again, I'm not saying that this is the only solution. I'm simply saying that, since I started doing this, I haven't had any injuries (strained or torn muscles). Odd, isn't it?
So, this is what the Cédric stretching session looks like:
I stretch the following muscle groups: calves, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, psoas and back muscles. The objective is to help the muscle to relax. Under no circumstances am I looking to become more flexible! I get in position and stretch my muscle until it is tight, but without forcing the muscle (if it hurts, it means that you're stretching the muscle too much and you could strain or tear it). When I reach this position, I hold it for between 30 and 40 seconds, while breathing deeply. I do two reps on each muscle group. This takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
Given that I'm not particularly flexible, I've got into the habit of doing a series of stretches every evening, even when I'm not in training. The only difference is that when I reach the position when the muscle is tight, I try to go a little further each time. This time, the objective is quite different: I want to improve my flexibility. And I can guarantee that it works!