Welcome back, Beast community! I hope you all enjoyed this morning’s run/ walk/or WOD! We’re going to be talking about one of the most important but typically ignored parts of exercise: stretching! I can understand that it can be the last thing on your mind after finishing an intense workout, but there are many reasons that make stretching crucial.
The most important benefit of stretching is pretty obvious: increased flexibility. Over time as our bodies age, our muscles shorten through muscle gain from strength training. This results in muscle tightness. The benefits of stretching on flexibility can be seen after practicing 2-3 times per week.
|Alicia shows an example of stretching.|
Stretching has a large impact on injury prevention. As you probably already know, you’re working really hard on preparing for The Beast on the Bay and a sidelining injury is something that should be avoided at all costs! Stretching increases the range of motion in your joints, which positively affects athletic performance, lowering your risk of injury. When stretching, you want to aim for symmetry, meaning if you stretch one hamstring, you must stretch the other. You should stretch until the point of pain; stretch until you feel tension on the muscle and hold for 30 seconds. In problem areas you can hold for up to 60 seconds (via Mayo Clinic). Another benefit to stretching is increased blood flow to muscle groups. Stretching dynamically (calisthenics) before a workout can help performance throughout the workout and also prevent injury to the working muscle. Static stretches preformed post workout can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS,) making you less sore the next day and making it easier to perform tomorrows workout!
Reducing stress is a large benefit of consistent stretching. People are always looking to reduce stress and as we know exercise increases endorphins that help reduce stress. Stretching is exercise to the body and so when stretching is done to the body endorphins are released that help to lower stress hormones. Again, try not to do static stretches without warming up first; do a ten minute jog or try a yoga routine. If I can't make it to class I use Downward Dog, an app that helps to guide your yoga practice! When stretching, you'll want to focus on the main muscles: your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Don't bounce into a stretch, as that could cause muscle injury. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds and don't forget to breathe regularly.
You can make your stretches workout specific, too! So, for example, if your workout focuses on your legs, focus your stretches on your calves, thighs and hamstrings. So after your next workout remember: stop and stretch! You don’t want all this hard work to go to waste because of an unexpected injury! Keep up the good work, we’ve only got a couple months until The Beast is here!