To those of us who aren’t familiar with the benefits of stretching, it may seem like a pointless activity. When you’re eager to get going, this somewhat mundane act takes up valuable time that most of us would prefer to spend on the road (or the treadmill, if you’re running at the gym). The fact is, stretching before and after exercise is crucial –particularly for those who run.
When we stretch we enable our muscles to become more flexible and less tense. The process lengthens them, and warms them up so that extended movement becomes easier. Not only does it allow for greater movement of our muscles, but the extra blood flow to the area means you’ll have increased energy levels during your run too.
In addition, there is less of a risk of injury such as pulling a muscle, as the muscles are warmed up and able to move comfortably. A post-workout stretch helps to reduce muscle fatigue and lactic acid build-up, plus it helps the muscles to recover faster. With a post-workout stretch, you will be able to exercise more easily the next time, as you won’t suffer from sore muscles and joints as much as you otherwise would.
Some fitness experts believe in jogging for ten minutes before you start your stretches. This moderate activity warms them up to allow for greater flexibility while you stretch. Others think that jogging is unnecessary, and that it’s perfectly safe to start off by stretching. What most experts agree on, is that you should dedicate five to ten minutes for pre-workout stretching and about five minutes for post-workout stretching.
When stretching before a run, be sure not to only focus on your legs, but to give your torso, arms and groin some attention too. Doing a full body stretch will enable you to perform at your very best.
Stretching should not hurt, so be careful not to over-stretch. What you’re looking for is slight discomfort, but not pain. If you do feel any pain, try to go steadier on your muscles, as over-stretching can cause injury too.
If you haven’t identified a stretching routine that works best for you, have a look online – athletes from around the world as well as trainers and fitness experts often post step-by-step routines that you can benefit from. If you’re training at a gym, ask one of the instructors to give you some tips.
Are you running the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon this year? Head on over to the adidas website here to download the adidas running app to track your friends live on race day, as well as training tips and a video marathon route guide series by Ross Tucker.