Stretching is important for loosening muscles before activity as well as increasing overall flexibility. It is important to focus both on your lower body as well as your upper body to prevent injuries. That said, the butterfly puts a great deal of strain on your hips, hip flexors, and groin muscles so be sure to focus a little extra on those. Before an activity your stretches should be designed to loosen your muscles. Ideally you can do a dynamic warm up first and follow up with static stretches, holding each stretch about 15 seconds. Although it is important, you probably won’t be able to gain much flexibility just by stretching as part of a warm up. The largest gains are made when stretching is done with warm muscles and when positions are held for longer periods of time, usually between 45 and 75 seconds, and repeating these stretches once or twice. Ideally this is an activity done directly following a skate or workout. You should reach to the point at which you feel tightness, but never pain. There are many good stretches that can be done with no extra tools, but a stretching strap can help to reach a little bit further, and yoga blocks can be good to adjust the length an athlete needs to reach during the stretch. Feel free to talk to us about different stretching techniques that can help you to reach your goals.
One of the best things that you can do for your body is to get a massage. However, if you are not a professional athlete this is often overly expensive and time consuming. There is an alternative to massages that athletes can use to achieve the same results, and some actually prefer these methods. Almost all higher level teams use these techniques, from pro to college and juniors, but many younger athletes are unaware of their benefits. Foam Rolling uses your body weight to apply pressure to your muscles while rolling over a firm foam cylinder. The firmer the roller the deeper into your muscles it can reach, but the more discomfort you may feel. You can also use things like “the stick” and “the tiger tail.” These rely on your ability to put pressure on the targeted muscle with your own strength. Alternatively you can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball on certain muscles as well. Basically you can roll over almost any muscle in your body, but we have included some suggestions below. For best results try to roll the full length of the muscle, targeting specific points as needed, but always finishing with a few rolls over the full length of the muscle. It usually is a somewhat uncomfortable exercise, but it will make you feel much better afterwards. When do you use it? Many teams use rollers to loosen up before they skate or work out. This helps to stimulate blood flow and circulation which is a key to feeling loose. It is also important to roll out after a skate or workout because it helps your muscles to recover. How does it work? First and foremost these exercises target fascia. Fascia is a connective tissue that runs from your forehead to the bottom of your feet, just under your skin and above your muscles. Fascia can become tight, even with loose muscles, and restrict movement making you prone to injuries. Furthermore, because the tissue is all connected, tightness in one place can cause tightness in other places. Using these techniques helps to loosen and stretch the fascia as well as the muscles below it. Together the muscles and fascia are referred to as the myofascial system. These methods also increase blood flow which can help to flush out acid in your muscles, reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness), break down scar tissue and reduce trigger points. This makes it ideal for post-exercise recovery because it reduces pain and stiffness and allows for an athlete to get the most out of future training. Note: It is important to drink extra water after rolling out or getting a regular massage. It helps to flush out your muscles and keep them hydrated and flexible.
Hydration is very important when attempting to perform at a high level, both athletically, and in the classroom. Mentally a hydrated person will think quicker, clearer, and more accurately than a dehydrated one. Playing the position that you do, being clearheaded obviously carries an extra importance. Physically, think of your muscles like a sponge. When you are dehydrated they are like a dry sponge, easy to tear or strain and not at all flexible. When you are properly hydrated they are like a wet sponge, much more flexible, and less likely to injure. The best way to see how hydrated you are is to pay attention to the shade of your urine. The closer it is to being clear the more hydrated you are.