Are you confused about stretching? Do you struggle with remembering to stretch every time you do your workout? If you are anything like me, you may wonder how many, and which stretches to do before or after a run or workout. There are several schools of thought in the running community regarding stretching. Some feel it isn’t necessary to stretch before a run and only stretch when recovering after their run. Others stretch before and after their workouts. And then there are some who don’t stretch much at all or forget to stretch entirely. No matter where you fall in the stretching spectrum there is something to be gained from stretching.
My aim is to cover some of the key health benefits of stretching and then help you get started with a few basic stretches. I will cover the main muscle groups and target the areas that may become tight or sore when participating in a running program of any kind. Okay, so let’s get started!
A few of the commonly known key health benefits of stretching are increased circulation, lower stress levels, greater flexibility, better balance and range of motion, improved posture, and a reduced risk of injury. The loosening and lengthening of the muscles allows you to move more freely, gives you a greater range of motion, increases blood supply to the area of the body that you’re stretching, and improves your overall well-being and performance during exercise of any kind. With these health benefits in mind I think we should get to stretching!
- Side Stretch and breathing (feet shoulder width apart, arms up and over to one side)
This stretches out the side of your body with a focus on the lats, middle back, and the lower back area.
- Touch your toes from standing position
This stretch is aimed at your hamstring.
- Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch
Aimed at the hip flexor and quads, this is a favorite stretch of mine.
- Side Lunge Stretch-Standing Hamstring
This stretches out the hamstring and inner leg muscles.
- Calf & Achilles Stretch (heel lowered on a step or bench)
With this stretch the achilles and calves get some love.
- Standing Front Quad Stretch (Stork Stretch)
Quads on the front of the upper leg get all the attention with this stretch.
- Shoulder Stretch (across the body)
Opening the shoulder area with a quick stretch can help relax the upper body.
For me, holding each stretch for about 30 seconds is ideal, but the key is to listen to your body. If you feel you need to stretch for a longer or shorter duration do what is right for you and your fitness level. Please perform the stretches described and portrayed in this article at your own risk. We recommend consulting with your physician or healthcare provider before performing any stretching or fitness routine.
Have a great run and happy stretching! –Suzanne Gainey, SATECH, Inc.
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