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Stretching must be a major part of your preparation if you are interested at running. The body is flexible. It is supposed to be flexible. You must be able to bend and reach that something you dropped on the floor. Can you zip the back of your favorite dress on your own? Can you reach that book you need to read at the top shelf.
Sure, these are simple activities. Nothing grand about them, you merely stretched out a bit. However, if there are difficulties in doing such simple motions, then you must stretch your limits. You already need a stretching program.The hallmark of successful people is that they are always stretching themselves to learn new things. ~ Carol S. Dweck Click To Tweet
Stretching for Runners
People exercise or workout for various reasons. Many workout to build their muscles while others exercise to lose some weight and burn excess fat. While exercise indeed has many health benefits, doing them properly is the key to improved overall health.
In line with this, warming up and stretching are important in any physical activity. These activities play critical roles in preparing the body for workouts, both physically and mentally. Having proper warm-up and stretching routines before workouts may decrease the chances of developing injuries.
Many runners get excited about increasing their speed and distance. However, they sometimes skimp on stretching and other essential elements of a balanced fitness program.
If that sounds like you, your habits could be holding you back. Consistent stretching will enhance your performance and lower your risk of injury. It’s also a constructive way to relax and handle stress.
Learn all you need to know by reading this quick guide on stretching for runners.
What Is Stretching?
Stretching is simply the act of extending to full length the body or simply a part of it. This activity involves straightening or stretching the structure or the limbs.
How Does One Do the Stretching?
Stretching is easy. As mentioned in the introduction, it is involved in the normal activities. It can be done by any person, regardless of age.
However, the extent of stretching and flexing differs. The muscles tighten as a person ages. The range of joint movements can be minimized. This can very well obstruct an on-the-go lifestyle. That is why as the person grows older, bending or flexing becomes more limited. Therefore, stretching regularly, as part of a daily routine is very important.
Simple stretches can be done everyday. It can be incorporated in the lifestyle and the daily activities. It does not require much of your time.
Stretching exercises can also be done while training. Stretching is an essential part of any training or sport. It must be done first before anything else. Stretching the body and the limbs is a good preparation for a more rigorous activity.
Most athletes would do the sit and reach, wherein they position on the floor, extend their legs and reach the tip of their foot with the tip of their hand. There is an ideal length of time in stretching. It is best to do it in 10 minutes. This will give the body enough opportunity to move and flex the muscles, thus preparing it for more complicated and strenuous movements.
Experts however would frown upon going way beyond 10 minutes. Stretching the exercise to 30 minutes or more will already wear out the body. This will not be favorable if one is preparing for a game.
How to Stretch Effectively
Before stretching, dress in loose clothing and try and acquire a five-foot length of rope and tie a loop in the end. The purpose of this is to loop the end of rope around the exercising appendage to squeeze the last couple of inches of stretch from the exercise.
Find a comfortable place to stretch either on your bed, a carpeted floor or on a mat. Isolate the muscle or group you want to stretch then contract the muscle opposite. This causes the isolated muscle or group to relax straight away and when it does it is ready to stretch.
Gently and quickly stretch the isolated muscle until it can’t be stretched any further; now give yourself a gentle pull with your hands or rope. Go as far as you can and then hold the stretch for no more than 2 seconds then release, do this for a total of 5 repetitions on the isolated muscle or group.
The reason for just a 2-second stretch is because when a muscle realizes that it is being forced into a stretch it contracts to protect itself from being overstretched.
If you can beat this contraction, you will be well on the way to a greater range of motion. Remember to hold for no more than 2 seconds, release, return to the normal position and repeat for the five repetitions. Try not to have any hesitations between stretches and make it as fluid as possible. Try to stretch every day, if possible, remember to:
- Work one target muscle at a time.
· Contract the muscle that is opposite the targeted muscle, which will relax in preparation of its stretch.
· Stretch it gently and quickly.
· Release it before it realizes that it has been stretched and goes into its protective contraction.
Warming-up vs Stretching
Stretching and warm-up are two different things. A lot of people confuse stretching with the warm-up phase. Stretching is a part of the warm-up routine, but stretching alone is not the warm-up.
The term warm-up is described by many as light-aerobic and cardiovascular activities. Sports specialists believe that the time spent on warming up may improve the level of performance and boost the recovery process needed before training or competition. In addition to these benefits, warms-ups are needed to alter the body from a resting state to an exercise state.
A good warm-up session may prepare the body for workout by increasing the blood flow to the muscles, boosting body temperature, and speeding-up metabolism. A warm-up activity is usually the slower-paced version of the activity that is about to be done. For example, before going for a long jog, warm-up by jogging in place or doing a couple of minutes of light jog.
Should You Stretch Before A Workout?
Everyone needs to make use of some good stretching exercises before they do any other kinds of exercises. Stretching exercises are not something that you need to do just once or twice a week. It is important that you do some great stretching exercises before you exercise each time.
These stretching exercises will help you to get your muscles warmed up, and ready for anything that you throw at them. Without stretching exercises, you are bound to pull some muscles and this can hold you back.
You cannot afford to let your muscles get pulled and torn if you want to get in good shape. The stretching exercises that you choose need not be too complex or too fancy; they only need to work. And not all stretching exercises are for everyone. There are different levels to stretching exercises just as there are with any other kind of exercise as well.
The stretching routine that you choose to do each time you work out should suit your exercises and your body.
Body Parts That Runners Need to Stretch
Tight hamstrings are a major issue for runners, but there are many more factors at work. You need to stretch the rest of your body, as well as your legs.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Care for your thighs. Running can make your hamstrings tight and uncomfortable because the quadriceps on the front of your thighs are often much stronger than the hamstrings on the back of your thighs. Stretching and strength training can help keep this muscular imbalance under control.
- Loosen your hips. If you push yourself too hard, you may feel pressure on the outside of your thigh where your iliotibial band (ITB) runs from your hip to your shin. It is also important for runners to pay attention to the groin area near the front of the hip.
- Stretch your calves. Prevent cramps by doing exercises for your lower legs too. Your calves must work very hard to push your weight off each foot when you run.
- Pamper your feet. Supportive shoes will protect your feet but stretches are fundamental too. To make things easier, you can do many of these movements sitting down, maybe while you are watching TV or talking on the phone.
- Remember your upper body. While your legs are doing most of the work when you are running, your upper body matters too. Your upper and lower back absorb pressure, especially if you run on hard surfaces. Also, being limber from head to toe helps you to maintain correct posture and move with less effort.
Stretching Techniques Runners Need to Use
Keep your muscles flexible and strong. In addition to running faster and longer, it may help you to age more comfortably.
Try these techniques:
- Respect your limits. It is okay to feel a gentle pull while stretching, but back off if you experience any sharp sensations. Be patient and stay close to your comfort zone.
- Use other methods. If you already have injuries or very tight muscles, you may need to put off stretching for a while. Icing and massaging the area could help you recover faster.
- Warm up. Save static stretches for after your run when your muscles are warm. Prior to running, focus on gentle movements to get your blood flowing, like walking for a few minutes.
- Cool down. Take time to stretch for about 10 minutes before you hang up your running shoes. A consistent practice will pay off.
- Follow your breath. Coordinate your breath with your movements. Inhale as you tense each muscle before stretching. Exhale as you relax and lengthen.
- Move smoothly. Bouncing makes your muscles tighten and increases the risk of tears. Proceed at a slow and steady pace. Stay still as you hold stretches for about 30 seconds.
- Add resistance. Working against an opposing force can help you get greater results. Use your hand or a strap to gently press your body part in the other direction while you are stretching.
- See your doctor. Discuss your individual questions with your physician, especially if you have underlying medical conditions. They may refer you to a physical therapist who can teach you stretching exercises customized for your needs.
Stay safe and reach your fitness goals by adding regular stretching sessions to your fitness program. You’ll be less likely to have to take days off to recover from injuries, and you’ll make running more comfortable and rewarding.
Final Thoughts On Stretching
Warming up and stretching before and after working out is important in maintaining a healthy body. These workout routines however should be done properly to reap its health benefits. Before starting a fitness program, individuals are encouraged to seek the advice of doctors and other health professionals. They may devise a fitness program and diet appropriate for the health needs of various individuals.
Stretching helps us to avoid injuries. Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon, or ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically speaking. Stretching grows the ligaments, tendons and muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over time.
Incorporate stretching in your everyday lifestyle. It has benefits you can not say no to. It also does not require much and can be your usual activities, bending and flexing every now and then. After all, your fitness is everything so do what it takes to keep your body healthy.
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