MPI/Runner's World: A-I Stretch

Jim Wharton, Phil Wharton
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Athletic Stretch

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This tape was exactly what I had hoped it would be. It's geared toward stretching to prevent injury and increase performance. Quick scenes between segments show runners, and one of the instructors has a Runner's World t-shirt. The music (more on that later) has a beat to it. This is not relaxing, soothing, calming stretch!

The principle behind AI stretch is to hold a stretch for only 1-2 seconds, then release the stretch for 1-2 seconds, and repeat the process about 7-10 times for every stretch. To give you an example, one of the most recognizeable stretches in the tape is something like a seated twist in yoga, where one leg is upright and bent over the other leg, and you twist in the direction of the bent leg, looking behind you. In AI stretch, you would twist and look behind you for two seconds, then return to face front, then twist behind you, then face front again, etc. Arms and legs are always stretched individually, so everything you do on one side you do on the other.

The tape is about 45 minutes long, and goes through stretching every body part. There are individual segments for hamstrings, calves, quads, hips, back/trunk, shoulders, and neck. There's a quick scene between each section that tells you what the next body part is, and has a clip of runners. So you could, conceivably, break the tape up, or just FF to a section in which you're interested.

Most of the stretches are done with a rope. They use a special stretch rope, but you could use yoga strap, a belt from a robe, or what I used, a rolled up shirt that someone left at our house after the super bowl (!). What I liked about this stretching as opposed to yoga, is that in yoga a "goal" is eventually to be able to reach your foot with your hand and, keeping your leg straight, move your leg to either side, or in front of you. In AI stretching, even the teacher is using the rope. There are only a couple stretches in which the instructors suggest modifications. I find it a lot less frustrating. (I know this reveals that I have a lot of work to do in how I think about yoga...)

The stretches are also very thorough. There are three or four different hamstring stretches (on each side), aimed at different parts of your hamstring. Three or four different calf stretches, etc. There are stretches for your shins and ankles. And lots of different shoulder stretches. You definitely work to increase your range of motion in a lot of different places.

One critique: they showed many shoulder stretches, but with fewer reps of each. They said in the beginning of the shoulder suggestion, "we're going to show you many stretches. However, we suggest you do 7-10 reps of each, instead of the 3-4 we're going to do." So you'd have to eventually modify, picking the few you like and doing them with more reps. Or perhaps pausing the tape to continue with your reps.

There were two instructors: a father/son team. The son introduced the exercise and demonstrated on the floor, while the dad talked throughout the entire exercise about the benefits of each exercise, what muscles it was working, what sort of injuries it would prevent, etc. There was a lot of talking! (I told you it wasn't soothing and calm.) They were a little corny, ("that's great, Jim!") but the information they gave was clearly researched and practical.

The production, however, stunk. There were three other exercisers, and you could usually see only one of them (other than the instructor) at any one time, and maybe the feet of another. There were two cameras, so eventually you'd see all of them. They were also arranged differently in each of the different segments, which was a little distracting. The set was someone's living room, with all the stretchers on the floor and the fatehr sitting on a couch behind them. It looked very low-budg. The music really stunk, with about four different songs, each seeming to have only 5 (albeit upbeat) bars of music repeated over and over again. I would've preferred no music at all. The production was a little off-putting and distracting, but I was willing to put up with it since I liked the tape so much.

FYI, I've only done this tape once, yesterday. I would consider myself an advanced exerciser. I'm also a pretty flexible person, and have been practicing yoga for about two years. I have a bad ankle right now, and the stretches made it feel better, not worse, but of course, I don't know how others with injuries will feel doing this tape. I felt very "loosey goosey" after this tape, promptly took a nap, and felt great when I woke up. I wanted to do it again this morning, but I didn't have enough time.