What to stretch, when to stretch and how to stretch – Part 1.

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This article is designed to address the confusion surrounding the benefits of stretching and if it should be a part of your training regime. Just the other day having spoken to a new patient, their response to our question of ‘do you stretch regularly?’ was to reply with ‘do I need to?’- so that where we will begin.

Do I need to stretch?

In our opinion and that of many others- yes you should. Its certainly a good idea to stretch the major muscle groups of the body at least twice a week, more so if you are training hard. The idea behind stretching is to stay flexible and flexibility is something we lose proportionally as we get older. Staying flexible will help you to move better and can limit injuries. Stretching or flexibility exercises should become a part of a regular program long term. .

When should I stretch?

Some say you can stretch before exercise as well as after- but if nothing else make sure you stretch AFTER you exercise. Some people swear by stretching before you exercise or before your run or race. Its a personal thing and to us there is no right or wrong. What we do see as a benefit to stretching beforehand is that its a great form of mental preparation- a chance to get psyched up and ground yourself. If you do choose to stretch before your run or race make sure you take 5 minutes to warm up the areas to be stretch- make sure you never stretch COLD- warm things up  with arm swings, gentle legs swings and some figure of 8 runs to get that blood pumping!

A word of caution; studies have shown that too much ‘static’ stretching beforehand can weaken performance such as your sprinting speed. The reason they believe is that too much stretching can actually tire out your muscles.

What stretches should I do?

A particular type of stretch needs to be employed if you choose to stretch BEFOREHAND. ‘DYNAMIC STRETCHES’*. Your dynamic stretches should mimic the type of exercise or activity you are going to be performing, the only difference is the intensity of the stretch should be far less than the intensity you will put into your run or race. For example we recommend  the following dynamics exercises/stretches if you were due to be running; brisk walk followed by walking lunges, leg swings, high steps or butt kicks. The golden rule is start easy and build up the intensity.

* A dynamic stretch moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion safely. Pendulum leg swings are an example.

If I stretch before a run or race, do I need to stretch after?

 

After you come over the finish line you should definitely be stretching. The fact is everyone is more flexible after exercise because you have increased the circulation to your muscles and joints.

 

So I can do dynamic stretches after I finish my race?

No. Now that you have exercised you should perform ‘static stretching’* as you will get more benefit from them now. But before you stretch make sure you cool down a little first. A walk around for a few minutes before you stretch should suffice.

*Static stretching involves stretching a muscle to the full extent of your ability and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is what’s called a static stretch. Just make sure you feel the stretch and not pain. If you feel pain stop immediately.

How long do I need to stretch for when I finish?

First of all you have a golden period of 2 hours after your race in which to stretch and stretch effectively. How long you stretch for is then up to you. We recommend each stretch you do should be held for 30 seconds to get maximum benefit. We also recommend that you create a routine that you can efficiently and safely perform.

I am a runner, what areas need stretching?

Need inspiration? In our next article we will provide you with what we consider are the 8 top to toe stretches that every runner or rider should follow.

The Flying Physios are offering all subscribers and competitors to Hercules Events a 30 minutes treatment at our London Colney clinic for just £20.00. The 30 minutes will consist of sports & remedial massage therapy. To book call the clinic on 01727 758846 or email info@theflyingphysios.com

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