Stretching is the first thing I do when I wake up. I always think ‘cat’ as I stretch in bed before getting up. It feels amazing and my body loves it. Yet as a runner stretching isn’t a priority. It isn’t even fun. I am trying to change my mindset but for a long time it didn’t even seem all that necessary. But it is – it is vital and so important. It is wonderful for your body and your mind.
For Your Body
This is probably the best known benefit of stretching and the one most people already know. Muscles get tighter resulting in less flexibility. And this can result in a lot of problems even if you don’t have an active lifestyle.
It’s surprising exactly what improves in your body with stretching. When you stretch you lengthen your tight muscles and in terms of poor posture this is so important. Stretching the lower back, chest, and shoulders helps to keep the spine better aligned. When I stretch out my hips and legs I can noticeably tell the different the next time I run and in my recovery times. My knees ache less because the muscles are less tight and more flexible.
There has been research done on the effect stretching has on injury prevention. There haven’t been any conclusive results but I firmly believe that stretching does help prevent injuries. Activities such as yoga and just general stretching after a run have helped me so much in recovering and becoming stronger.
For Your Mind
Stress has very physical effects on the body. I hold my stress in my neck and shoulders – my muscles become tense and contract. Stretching – not because I have run or am in pain – but just because I want to has greatly helped me to hold less stress in my muscles. This is one of the reasons why I really love yoga – not only does it work my shoulders but it works my whole body. I always leave every class feeling a little calmer, a little more flexible, and a little less frazzled.
- Pre-workout stretching is less effective than you might have been led to believe. Stretching is always more effective and better for your muscles once they are warm. I always stretch after having started my run and prefer dynamic stretching where I am not stationary but am moving. Once I finish my workout I stretch whilst stationary.
- Classes like yoga and pilates will help you stretch your whole body. After a workout it’s more effective to concentrate on stretching the muscles which need it, rather than the whole body. So after a run I concentrate on my hips, thigh muscles, calf muscles, and shoulders.
For me stretching is slowly becoming less of a work in progress and more of a habit. I am very happy about this!