Monday, August 11, 2008
Resistance Stretching: This is what Dara Torres does!
Last Monday I took out a couple of stretching books that I bought a couple of years ago to flip through again to see if I could learn something new or helpful to help with my misaligned hips and legs. I first checked out "Stretch to Win" by Ann and Chris Frederick. It is a book that presents stretching in a well-thought out way with some interesting moves but I remembered doing these before with the the results that I needed to fix my biomechanics. I would recommend it however to someone with good biomechanics that needs to work on their whole body flexibility.
I then took out "The Genius of Flexibility" by Bob Cooley. I am not sure I had delved much into this book before because after buying it I noticed it didn't really tell you which muscles were being stretched, however it did list all sorts of psychological and emotional benefits you would get from each stretch and it seemed a bit far-fetched to precisely claim all these benefits from doing stretching exercises. Reading the stretching parts carefully I noticed that there is a difference in how you perform the stretched compared to what you would think when looking at the pictures (where they may look like traditional stretching).
I read that this is something new called "resistance stretching". To stretch a muscle this way you contract the muscle you are stretching as you stretch it out. "To stretch muscles, you start in a position where the muscles are as short as possible and then CONTRACT the muscles while elongating the muscle as far as possible until the muscles can no longer contract." I decided to try two stretches on Tuesday night. I did the hamstring stretch and the quadriceps stretch. I have found an example of both stretches here:
While doing the quadriceps stretch I heard a little pop from around my left hip capsule and a lot of the tightness in there disappeared. I felt real good after both stretches and did them again Wednesday before the track workout. I had a real good workout and my stride felt better than it had in a long time. I did 4 X mile in 6:09, 6:07, 5:59, 6:02. I was pretty happy with those results and the feeling of a somewhat better stride. I then headed down to Falmouth for the Road Race on Sunday. I went out for runs on Thursday and Friday but felt extremely tight. I was still doing the stretches and a few others. I notice that I feel better without the tightness in my hips when sitting, walking, or sleeping, but my running stride was still very tight and awkward. I didn't stretch much Saturday (or run) and started loosening up more by nighttime. I felt somewhat loose before the race on Sunday but my hips and muscles are very much limiting me as I run.
I ordered the DVD on this stretching system from Bob Cooley's website as well as one from this website that uses the same method and now are the people working with Dara Torres. Yes that is right. You have probably heard about Dara Torres extreme and expensive fitness routine that helped her get to her fifth Olympics in swimming. You may have heard about the $100,000 of yearly expenses that she has that includes hiring two personal "stretchers". Well "resistance stretching" is the type of stretching that she does. It can be done as a self-stretching routine, but I guess it is most powerful when someone else stretches you. After all it is claimed by the resistance stretchers that is takes twice as much force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. By turning around resistance stretches, you can do strength exercises.
I like how my muscles around my joints feel after I do the stretches. They feel warm or hot like a fire is burning in them. I don't feel like I am ripping something apart like I sometimes feel when doing static stretches. I also think that with my ingrained patterns of muscle movement while running and moving that I need something very powerful to get me back into proper form and movement. This type of stretching seems to offer that. I will give it a shot. It is new and different (and thanks to Dara Torres) something that will be looked at a lot by athletes and others. I didn't find much web information or impressions of other people who use the program yet, but I did find some interesting links.
First, here is a New York Times article on Dara Torres that is very interesting. If you go to that article you can find a video of Dara doing some resistance stretching or you can find it here. Here she demonstrates some self-stretching exercises.
Here is a video on Dara Torres from the E-60 television show. Near the end you can see some of expensive training routines including a bit of stretching with her stretchers.
This video show Dara in 2000 when she first started using Resistance Stretching. It shows Bob Cooley and others stretching Dara. This is a very different form of stretching than most people are used to seeing.
If you really want to see an interesting video of Bob Cooley and others stretching an athlete in Holland check out this video.
Here is a recently published article on resistance stretching from Time magazine.
Here is a commentary on the article that includes a post from Dara Torres' trainers.
Here is a 2006 Running Times article on resistance stretching.