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August 14, 2005: S-T-R-E-T-C-H and feel better!

Our bodies were meant to move, but many of us do not move enough to maintain adequate ranges of motion around our joints. As we lose flexibility we may be more prone to injury from muscle pulls, or if the muscle/fascia imbalance is one-sided, a joint may be pulled out of alignment creating discomfort or pain. Stretching is an easy and relaxing way to maintain your range of motion, and to increase it if needed.

For best results, stretch gently enough to feel a pull, but no pain, and as you hold the stretch over 30 seconds to a minute or two, wait to feel the area loosen. If you feel a tightening sensation as you are holding the stretch, you are probably stretching too hard, and the muscle is contracting in order to prevent injury, which ultimately defeats the purpose. Be certain that you feel the stretch between the joints and not at the joints, as it is important not to stretch the ligaments that hold your bones together, nor the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones. For example, as you stretch your hamstrings on the back of your upper leg, you do not want to feel the stretch behind the knee. Try bending your knee slightly, or adjusting the angle of your leg to move the stretch into the muscle.

You may notice as you stretch, that one side feels tighter than the other. Your stretching goal is to achieve balance, so stretch the tight side twice as long. A few weeks to months later, when both sides seem even, stretch them equally, and congratulate yourself on correcting a muscle imbalance!

Stretching needs to be done a minimum of five days a week to be effective. Once or twice a week will not achieve results. So schedule 15 to 20 minutes daily, and enjoy the luxury of a relaxing stretch. It will feel wonderful, and is a soothing way to let go of some of the day to day stress that infiltrates our being.

If you would like help designing a personalized stretch routine that addresses your muscle imbalances, hire someone who has training in muscle-length testing, such as a CHEK Practitioner. To find one near you, go to www.chekinstitute.com. To create your own program, use the book Golf Biomechanic's Manual: Whole in One Golf Conditioning by Paul Chek. Yoga is another fantastic way to increase your flexibility; yoga tends to stretch entire fascial lines (many muscles that are connected together with connective tissue) at once, doing away with stretching individual muscles, and in the process, teaches us how to stretch as our body was meant to be used. If taking classes is not your thing, use the book Yoga; Mind, Body, Spirit by Donna Fahri to learn the poses.
Chek, Paul; Golf Biomechanic's Manual: Whole in One Golf Conditioning Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2001
Stark, Steven D.; The Stark Reality of Stretching 1999