I just wanted to play. I thought that if I could get out of work by 6, I could be at the course by 6:30. Sun goes down by 7:20. If I hustled, I could get 18 in before the park closed! At 5:55 I started packing up my desk. I wanted nothing in the way of getting a round in.
I made it to the car without incident and without running into anyone who wanted to chit chat on the way out. I headed straight to the nearest decent course for a round of 18. Looks like I was going to get started just in time! I jumped out of the car, grabbed my bag, and jogged to the first tee. On the tee, I lined up my shot, visualized my line, took a breath, and…
Not only did I early release the heck out of that disc, but the sharp and debilitating pain shooting up my back was telling me there would be no disc golf that night. The snap I heard as I pulled several muscles in my lower back was not the snap I was hoping for.
It took 3 weeks to get over that particular injury, and that was minor. This kind of thing used to happen all the time. You name it and I’ve pulled or strained it. I’ve also been dumb enough to try to play through minor injuries only to make them major ones. 3 years ago, that all changed when regular stretching became a part of my life.
This was not by choice. I was not trying to get in touch with my inner Chi. I was recovering from some crippling disc issues in both my upper and lower back. If I didn’t stretch daily at that time, I couldn’t walk. Kind of made it worth the time. Over the years, regular stretching became something I just did. Always at the gym, often in the morning, always before and after any kind of disc golf.
Everyone knows that they should stretch before playing, but few people do. We know we risk injury, but for the vast majority of players it’s not until they suffer an injury or three that they take stretching and mobility seriously. For all of you out there that know you should be stretching, but maybe need that last little push to actually do it, there’s another great reason to stretch besides injury prevention.
Last spring I was playing in a tournament in early April. It was a cold morning and I made a point to arrive early to allow for some extra warm up. I have a pretty set tournament prep routine, so I got to it. When I got to the stretching portion of my warm up, I noticed another golfer doing the same thing behind the car next to me.
“Stretching out?” He asked.
“Yeah, got back issues, it’s the only way I can play. How about you?”, I asked back.
“I don’t have any back issues, I just want to win. I have no accuracy when I’m tight.”, He said casually.
“Helps accuracy? How so?”, I replied.
We had a good conversation that day. I got a lot of food for thought that I’ve been able to test out over the years. For me, the results are pretty conclusive.
Stretching improves your accuracy. There is not a professional athlete in the world that doesn’t warm up and stretch out before activity. For those that want to perform at the top level in their sport, warmup is critical. It helps in a million different ways, but for me it helps accuracy the most.
You see, your muscles, when cold, are like a new rubber band. Each time you stretch a new rubber band, it lengthens just a little bit more. Each time you stretch it, it gets longer. With every pull, it moves a bit easier and freer. The same is true with your muscles. Injury and other issues aside, let’s review what happens with your muscles when you hit the first tee cold and tight.
Your throw power and accuracy are determined in large part by your reach back and your follow through. The distance from your reach back to your follow through is determined by how far your muscles allow you to stretch, pull, and twist through the full motion of the throw.
If you start on the first tee cold and tight, you are making each of your first 20-30 throws with different potential distances between your reach back and your follow through. You also see wild variances in how “smoothly” a muscle group can fire. In other words, even if everything else was perfect, you have introduced a variable that will alter not only your power potential, but also your release point and therefore accuracy.
By warming up and stretching before you play, you are eliminating variables. Maximize your range of motion prior to playing by committing to a good stretching routine. Your body and your scores will thank you.
In a future post we’ll go over some recommended stretching routines that I think most people can live with. For now, remember to warm up a bit before your rounds and field work. It’ll not only keep you healthy, but it may shave some throws from your score too!
Do any of you have any other reasons for stretching out? I’d love to hear what you all are doing out there.