By Michael Sinnott | Mikeysinnott.com
Welcome to Wednesday Workout, the newest workout series on FasterSkier. This week, Mikey Sinnott of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team details the stretching routine he’s prioritized, which he first wrote about on his blog. We asked him for more specifics so we can do the same.
Stretching isn’t so much a workout as a routine. It’s like brushing your teeth. Nobody says brush this tooth at an angle horizontal to the gum line for 45 seconds at a speed of 71 brushes per-minute before moving on to blah blah blah. It’s a routine, done daily, done different every time.
I think the hardest part about stretching is making it an enjoyable routine. For years, I pretended stretching was an overly silly, old man ritual. I would run through my routine from the soccer days- touching my toes, then pulling at the quads and holding each for twenty seconds before switching.
After about 10 minutes, I was numb with boredom.
I told myself it was superfluous. I sought out new research to prove my theory. It was I who was rather silly.
The fact is, stretching makes a huge difference. Now that I am stretching more and more, I can feel tightening after a single day of forgotten practice. It opens the body to better range of motion, prevents injury and increases blood flow to aid in muscle tissue recovery. I can’t believe it took me so long to embrace it. I just had to work past the boredom.
The trick for me was pairing stretching with another activity, and making it a comfortable, enticing activity.
I started by setting up a stretching room. It’s not much, just a room with some blankets on the floor for comfort, a couple stretching aids and an entertainment system. I have a couple foam rollers (one softer and one harder), a lacrosse ball, a towel and pillows. My computer is set on a chair with the stereo attached. To use the internet, I am forced into the stretching room. To be in the stretching room and not stretching is embarrassing. Thus, I have tricked myself into stretching every day, for shame.
Every day is different, but mostly I employ Netflix or Hulu to idly distract me while I soothe the broken fibers of my poor muscles. I pick a nice piece that suits my time frame – The Daily Show if time is tight, maybe Escape From Alcatraz if I have the time and am really hurting.
Once the entertainment is playing, I put on some tights (better mobility) and settle into stretch until the credits roll. I start by focusing on the parts of my body that are actively sore, before moving to the parts that I used heavily that day or that I will be leaning on tomorrow. As I said, there is no set routine. Sometimes I’ll hold a stretch for twenty seconds and sometimes it will be three minutes. I like an organic approach that allows me to focus on the needs of the day.
There is always a blend of techniques. My favorite right now is the lacrosse ball. I like to place it under a shoulder, reaching across my body and allowing the ball to sink into and under my scapula. I try to breathe long and slow, relaxing every little muscle. Working the ball deeper into my back. Releasing the stress. My feet help me rock back and forth, finding the sweet spots that need plenty of attention. The ball works equally as well on the hips and IT bands. It can penetrate and isolate smaller spots that a foam roller plows over. If the lacrosse ball is too firm and painful, try a tennis ball to work those areas. For the lower back and legs, where the muscles are longer, I use a foam roller.
Of course, I still do the traditional form of stretching, too. I like a stretch that opens up my joints while elongating the muscles. For instance, I reach across my body on the toe touches, to open my opposite shoulder. I’ll reach behind my back and hold my own hands, pulling tighter until I feel the stretch throughout my lat, triceps, and shoulder. Pillows and towels can be used to prop up body parts or to reach further down your leg for controlled deep stretches.
I always end with a simple little neck stretch, pulling my head to each side, feeling it lengthen all the way down my back. It’s a little pat on the back for another session of body maintenance. This year I’ve been trying to stretch for at least thirty minutes, six times a week. Now that I have a comfortable place that helps the time fly by, it’s been no problem.
Editor’s note: For other stretching ideas, check out Annika Ferber’s Skis, Strains and Sprains blog.