We’ve all had that super stiff feeling especially at the beginning of or Fitness Journeys. And what advice do the pros give us? Stretch! In fact if your pro didn’t give you this advice you might need to reconsider your pro. Here’s the thing about stretching, there’s more to it than we think. The benefits of stretching go far beyond stopping soreness. They include:
- Increased injury resistance
- Improved performance (who doesn’t want that?)
- Speedier recovery and even improved sleep
In my experience; when I was told to stretch I hated the idea. I was advised to ditch the pre and post workout stretching and focus much more on a stretching programme. Stretching before bed and when I wake up. On days when I’m sore or just feel like it, stretch in the afternoon too or through the day if possible First day I noticed one change that made it worth it, my muscular pain from strength workouts was drastically reduced. What I wasn’t prepared for however were the other results of taking stretching seriously like this. My running pace improved, I was much more flexible and got to sleep real easy. Why didn’t I think of that?
Getting it right
Now I wouldn’t totally ditch pre workout stretching but because of the regular stretching habit I can dedicate much less time to it. 3-5 minutes and I’m ready for a 5K run. Just remember a few things to get those stretches right.
1. Hold don’t pull – seek to hold a position and not necessarily ‘pull’ on your muscles
2. Keep it comfortable – if it hurts it’s too far
3. Keep it short – 10 – 30 seconds at a time
4. Don’t bounce around or move – you hold for a certain amount of time and release. Then repeat, you should notice you can reach farther than the previous time
5. Breathe normally – don’t hold your breath or breathe fast, just breathe normal
6. Opposing muscles – try to stretch the opposing muscles when you stretch e.g.: hamstrings and quads, calves and shins etc.
7. Get advice- if you’re injured seek professional advice before attempting to ‘stretch it out’.
Known benefits of stretching
1. Stress relief – the connection between your physical state and mental state is well documented
2. Reduce injury risk – prepared muscles move better
3. Ease of motion – the increased flexibility leads to a better range of motion (e.g. increased stride length for runners)
4. Improve performance –better range of motion means you get through movements (e.g. running or lifts) easier and therefore faster (more reps or movements per minute)
5. Quicker recovery – Your muscles will repair faster and better and you’ll need less rest time between working out the same muscles (that doesn’t mean don’t rest)
6. Increases endurance – by loosening muscles and tendons blood flow is improved which combats fatigue
7. Better sleep – stretching before sleep reduces tightness and this improves sleep quality
8. Improved posture – tight muscles may be a sign of weaker muscles, stretching helps to correct posture by freeing muscles
I challenge you to try this for a week. Whether you’re active or not just get into the habit of stretching in the morning and before sleep. For the active ones I’d suggest you add it in the afternoon or through the day if you can.
Thank you to Fitness Zuda for the very informative article.