So you’re cruising along, and then you notice a little ache in your hip or knee. Eh, no big deal, you’ll just work through it. The next week, it’s a little worse. Still bearable, I’ll just keep going, you think to yourself. This goes on for a couple more weeks.
Then finally, the day arrives where you’re in a lot of pain and can’t push through. It derails your training and you feel like you’re back at square one, down and defeated. It’s almost inevitable in a training cycle if you’ve not been doing the extra work to keep your body healthy.
And what is that extra work? STRETCHING! Stretch your hamstrings, stretch your hip flexors, stretch your calves, stretch everything!
Stretching is one of the nicest things you can do for your body, but it’s also one of the areas in which people slack the MOST. It’s so easy to forget to do if you’re tired or pressed for time. It doesn’t work up a sweat so you don’t feel a “real” benefit immediately. And it’s tedious at times. But it can improve your flexibility and range of motion which will help you avoid injury. Also, it increases blood flow to your muscles and it’s nice and relaxing!
DON’T STRETCH COLD MUSCLES – Save your static stretching for after your workout, run, or walk, when your muscles are warm. To loosen up before your run or workout, make it dynamic! Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. Before your next run, walk, or workout, try out some leg swings:
BUT DON’T FORGET YOUR STATIC STRETCHES, TOO – After your run, walk, or workout, your muscles are nice and warm – making this a perfect time for a static stretch. Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time. Here’s a great post-run stretch for your quads:
SYMMETRY – Focus on having equal flexibility on both sides of your body. If you stretch one calf muscle, for instance, make sure to do the same stretch on the other side.
HOLD THE STRETCH – Breathe deeply and hold your stretch for 30-60 seconds to get maximum benefit.
NO PAIN – You should feel tension, but not pain when stretching. If it hurts, release the stretch back to the point where you don’t feel pain.