Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Stretching is Important: A Spiritual Analogy

If you know me, you know I love lifting, you know that it is an art to me, and that I read anything and everything that will help me understand the science of lifting.  I lift every day, and I dedicate more than 15 minutes of my routine to stretching.  No matter what muscle group I am working that day, I stretch every single muscle every day for at least a minute each.

Why is stretching a muscle important for strengthening the muscle?  The simplest way to explain it is that when you are lifting something heavy, you are contracting the muscle.  The muscle needs to be able to contract well and completely, and the more "stretched out" the muscle is, the more completely and efficiently it will contract.  If your muscle is not stretched out to begin with, it will have "less space" to contract, and therefore will not be strong enough to lift something heavy.

Although stretching is integral to strength training, it must be done gradually.  If normally you are not flexible and then suddenly you try to stretch far beyond your range of motion, you will probably pull a muscle.  To become more flexible, and consequently to get stronger, requires persistent stretching.  I stretch everyday, and it is still not a pleasant experience, but I am also always getting more flexible and always getting stronger.

It is the same with the spiritual life.  Besides the ways we actively try to increase our spiritual strength, there are our many circumstances and predispositions which we did not choose.  I frequently wonder at the things God has given me to endure, whether externally or internally caused.  As I get older, He stretches me further and further, and it does not get any easier.  But I know that I am getting stronger because of it.

Whenever I feel down and depressed, in a rut, like there is no way out of my problems, I always think about Job, and sometimes I go and read his story.  His story gives me hope, because God stretched him far beyond anyone.  He stretched him farther than He has stretched me and ever will stretch me, and He only stretched him so far because He knew he could handle it.  He took away everything Job had for no apparent reason.  Job knew it was not punishment for his sin, he could not possibly understand why, and the despair killed him, but he still chose not to lose sight of God.  He endured the stretch, and for that reason, when he once again contracted, God let him come back twice as strong.

It is simply the way the human body works.  We need to be stretched in order to get stronger.

A website all about stretching, with better explanations:

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  1. Have you ever seen the film Pumping Iron? It's not perfect but it is one of my favorites with lots of life lessons contained in it

    1. No I haven't! But I've heard about it, I was just put off by the fact that they use steroids in the movie. I'm not sure if they say/show it explicitly on film though. But if it has some substance I'll have to check it out. Thanks for commenting and for the recommendation!

    2. Arnold admits to steroid use after that film was made. It's never mentioned in the documentary. His defense was that everyone was doing it back then because they were not yet illegal. Also they were nowhere near as powerful or refined as they are now. I like the film about the then young sport but Arnold's attitude steals the show. Hilarious.

    3. Would you consider bodybuilding a sport though?