BENEFITS OF STRETCHING
For ages, I couldn’t wait to get home after a training session or gym session and often skipped the all important ‘stretching’ as part of a cool down. Stretching is one of the most forgotten aspects of an exercise routine, which your excuse is probably down to time limits, exhaustion from a workout, or not being aware of the benefits of stretching. Whatever reason you have not to stretch, I would really recommend for you to reconsider. After every session now (whether that be after running or in the gym) I aim to stretch for at least 10 minutes, and every now and then I try to attempt yoga on an evening.
There are so many benefits to stretching:
It reduces your risk of injury
It allows your muscles to restore their full range of motion, which will help reduce the risk of injury. Stretching is really just moving the joint in an effort to lengthen the muscle. The aim is to maximise the joint’s range of motion, which is a good thing, because the greater range of motion you have, the more likely you’re able to generate a greater force – helping you to run faster for example. It’ll help with muscle development and performance as it means you’ll be able to activate more muscle fibres.
It speeds up the recovery process
Ensuring good flexibility and range of motion actually helps with the blood flow to your muscles. This will aid recovery and reduce muscle soreness as your muscles are more likely to receive an efficient nutrient delivery and will be able to better remove waste or toxins from the muscle that’s built up as a result of exercise.
Stress can often cause tense muscles and stretching will help counteract this. And, stretching will also help reducing feelings of stress and help your body recharge.
It improves posture
Chronically tense and tight muscles can cause poor posture. By restoring the length of this muscle, you will improve your posture.
It improves balance and coordination
Most people do not think about balance and coordination when talking about stretching. However, it has been shown that restoring your flexibility has a positive effect on these, which in turn will reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself.
While any full-body stretching routine will do, there are some specific stretches that I like to do and think can really improve your running performance and prevent the aches and pain runners commonly experience. I usually like to focus on stretches that target the muscles I know I’ve used the most whilst running (i.e. the legs in particular).
Rule of thumb is to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and to repeat on the opposite side (if applicable). Stretch only to the edge of discomfort. Of course, I include a whole range of other stretches along with these but there are SO many it’s impossible to name them all.
If you’re pushed for time after a run, try stretching on an evening instead, before you go to bed! Your muscles are likely to be warm from being at home in the warmth so no need to worry about stretching on cold muscles and this will just help to give you some of the benefits I mentioned above.