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Hate stretching? This alternative is just as good for your recovery
If you hate stretching after a workout, try this smoother alternative. It will get you the same recovery, and a bit more.
I get it, you're tired from the workout, and you don't feel like spending the extra time, and anyway, stretching isn't all that comfortable.
I'm a bit the opposite, as in before running I think "oh I guess I better spend the time warming up or I will regret it" - and I do the thing. After running, I'm OK with stretching as I appreciate the benefits it brings.
No doubt stretching after a workout is a good thing. But let's face it, people don't do it.
I have some good news for you. I can't give you back the time you will need to spend, but doing this will ease your muscle aches and its not discomforting - as stretching can be.
Your muscles ache for longer if you don’t stretch
I've been going to my local gym for nearly 20 years and seen many thousands of people exercising. I can count on two hands the number who regularly stretched after exercise - aside from the shallow 5 minutes at the end of a class.
People hate it, and they don't do it.
As a consequence of not stretching your muscles ache for longer and take longer to recover their full capability.
They also don't respond to the training effort you put in as well as stretched muscles. That is, if you trained for strength, or endurance, or flexibility, then you will not get the full value from that effort compared to someone who stretches.
Despite that - and knowing all that - stretching after exercise just ain't going to happen for the vast majority of people.
The next best thing is to flush your muscles with fresh blood and a fresh supply of nutrients.
If you do this, you will wash away the metabolic waste from your exercise - that stuff that causes them to ache - and supply new food and energy to help recovery.
Do the same thing, lighter - the alternative to stretching
Percy Cerutty, one of Australia's most iconic athletic coaches from the 1960s, said in his book "Be Fit or Be Damned!" that the best recovery is to "do the same thing lighter".
That advice still holds true today.
But we don't have to do literally the same thing. We can do something which lightly exercises the body parts we trained during our workout.
What's the universal way to "do the same thing lighter" you ask?
It is to use the rowing machine.
Yes, I know.
People hate the rowing machines almost as much as stretching after their workout. But there is hope; after all, there are many many more people using the rowing machines than stretching.
Part of the problem is that most people don't know how to row and hence find it awkward. In fact, yesterday a woman came over to me as I was doing a post-workout row and said to me:
"You are one of the few people I have seen who knows how to row. I have a friend who is a rower and he told me how to do it - just like you are doing."
Thanks, I replied. I rowed on. I didn't tell her that I was a rower at school - the lightest rower in the school's history! I had to row off on an ergometer at the Sydney University Boat Club against the last competitors. I delivered the highest performance and won the 24th and last place in the rowing squad.
Here's the thing - rowing exercises your whole body, and it will move your blood and flush out your muscles. Rowing will make you recover faster, and will reduce your post-workout muscle aches.
See this post from Women's Health: 15 benefits of using a rowing machine
Knowing how, and rowing gently, is enjoyable
Part of the problem is that most people don’t know how to row and hence find it awkward. In fact, yesterday a woman came over to me as I was doing a post-workout row and said to me:
“You are one of the few people I have seen who knows how to row. I have a friend who is a rower and he told me how to do it — just like you are doing.”
Thanks, I replied. I rowed on.
I didn’t tell her that I was a rower at school — the lightest rower in the school’s history! I had to row off on an ergometer at the Sydney University Boat Club against the last competitors. I delivered the highest performance and won the 24th and last place in the rowing squad.
Here’s the thing — rowing exercises your whole body, and it will move your blood and flush out your muscles. Rowing will make you recover faster, and will reduce your post-workout muscle aches.
> See this post from Women’s Health: 15 benefits of using a rowing machine
You can do it gently. It would be best if you took the time to learn to do it properly — by doing that you will enjoy it much more.
It’s a pleasant sensation to get into the rhythmic movement, and it is easy on your body.
This video from British Rowing shows exactly how to use an indoor rowing machine.
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How to row - my top tips for you to enjoy rowing after exercise
The key is to think of three movements using your:
Most people I see at the gym use one or two of those. Many only use their arms with a small twitch of their legs and back. Using your legs, back and arms in coordination makes rowing smoother, more beneficial and more enjoyable.
Here are my top tips, based on what I see most people struggling with (and watch the video):
Last tip: keep the cable moving parallel to the ground, not lashing up and down, and keep it taut at all times, not slacking and snatching. This will get your more benefits and make the row more smooth and enjoyable.
There you have it. If you prefer visuals this is a perfect set of illustrations.
Try rowing after your workout for just 5 minutes.
Set the resistance scale to half-way and row at a comfortable pace, paying attention to your form. Initially, aim to complete 500m. Don’t rush.
Focus on your legs — 60% of the power is from the legs, 30% body, 10% arms.
This is an easy five minutes, with no pain of stretching, and will greatly improve your recovery and reduce your post-exercise muscle aches.
Let me know how you go, love to get your feedback.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter