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The Lowdown on Stretching

Written by Bodyneed on March 6th, 2015.      0 comments

Ok, so we all know stretching is important - but do you know why? 
 
Running isn’t called ‘pounding the pavement’ for nothing.  It’s repetitive and the same muscles and joints get used over and over for long periods of time. When muscles are used they shorten, and then stay that way as you cool down. Repeat the pattern and your muscles just shorten further. 
 
This shortening is also compounded by age – yes sorry but it’s a fact – we get tighter and stiffer as we get older!
 
BUT it doesn’t have to be this way – stretching lengthens your muscles and mobilises your joints, making you feel free, young and svelte again!
 
When you stretch for running the aim is to lengthen areas that may be particularly tight on you (different for each person) and to maintain a normal length in your other muscles – eg to not get any tighter!
 
There is a common myth that you should be as bendy as a yogi to run well – not so!  In fact a certain amount of stiffness can be helpful in running – the ideal is long, strong leg muscles to give range and power to your stride PLUS a strong, stable core that supports your spine and joints during impact.  So what you really need is a balance of strength and flexibility.
 
The lowdown on stretching
 
After exercise is the best time to stretch – while you are still warm and your muscles are nice and limber. Before exercise it’s a good idea to warm up your lower body with controlled leg swings, up and down and side to side. This gets the blood flowing into your muscles and get your legs prepared to run – 30 seconds on each leg will do the trick.
 
Make sure your muscles are WARM - Get your heart pumping first and then slow things down to go through your stretches.
 
Go SLOW – stretching takes time – do not rush it – slowly ease into your stretch – until you feel the pull and then a bit more, wait until this eases and increase the stretch even more; hold for 30-60 seconds for best results.
 
No PAIN – stretches should NOT hurt!  Ok so it will a little – but more of an achy hurt – stop stretching if you feel sharp, searing or stabbing pain.
 
If you forget to stretch all is not lost!  Add your stretches into your next exercise session – while you are still warm.  Spend a bit longer on them and you will really notice the difference on your next run.
 
Stretching is NOT a competition – if you find yourself next to a bendy betty don’t try to do what they are doing – everyone is different and it may actually be dangerous for you to try what someone else is doing.  Work within your own limits – and think baby steps – you are trying to get your muscles back to a normal length after running – not turn into a gymnast!
 
Join a stretch class – yoga, pilates and some gym classes have a strong stretch focus and this can be a great way to get some focussed stretching and learn some new exercises.  Quick tip – if you can’t sit on the floor cross-legged then yoga is probably a good option, but if you can cross your legs comfortably and touch your toes I would recommend something like pilates that has a combination of strengthening and flexibility.  Look for classes that are targeted to runners or athletes and you will know that the teacher understands your needs.

Have I sold you on it yet?!
 
Our top 3 runners stretches:
 
Hip Flex-701-67
Hip Flex
Glute2-166
Glutes
Glute3-976
Glutes


 
 

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