One of the most important yet overlooked aspects of fitness is stretching. The health benefits have been studied and validated by hundreds of scientists, but it isn’t just beneficial; it’s necessary!
Why You Need to Do It
Stretching is important because it stretches your muscles (duh!). This lowers the risk of injury and pain because it keeps your joints flexible and your blood flowing. When you excercise, you are tightening your muscles, which means they get shorter and tighter. When you stretch, you are lengthening them. This means that they will be elongated and flexible the next time you recruit them to exercise.
The most common form of stretching that people are familiar with is static stretching. This is when you stay in a stretch for 10 seconds or more. Some examples of this are forward folds, stradles, and splits. This can be good for building flexibility, and maintaining it. In my opinion, this is best after working out because your muscles are already warm, and can be stretched properly.
Dynamic stretching is when you move while you stretch. Some examples of this are pulling your knees to your chest while walking, or butt kicks while running. Dynamic stretching is typically cites as better than static because it warms the muscles up as it is stretching them, even further lowering the chance for injury.
So, now you know the importance of stretching, and you kow the two main types, what do you do with this information? One of my favorie ways to incorperate stretching into my routine is yoga. I always do either a quick yoga session after my run, or a longer one when I have more time. This has helped in my athetic performance as well as my peace of mind.
Before your workout, you should spend a few minutes doing some dynamic stretching. I would suggest doing some arm circles, hip circles, walking lunges, leg swings, and arm raises. Again, this stretches your muscles and warms them up to prepare for your workout.
Stretching has really changed the game for me in my fitness journey, and I encourage you to try it as well!