Are You Feeling the New Year’s Resolution Burn?
If you’re like hundreds of thousands of other people, you made a New Year’s Resolution to have a healthier lifestyle. And if you’re like 8% if the population, you’ve actually kept those resolutions!
We’re headed into the second month of the year now, and I thought I’d check in to see how all of you are doing in your fitness pursuits. My family is doing well. We resolved, simply, to “exercise more.” As a result, we’ve hit the road every evening after supper to take a walk. As weather allows, of course.
In the spirit of helping you stick to those resolutions, I also thought I’d offer a few tips. Nothing kills a workout more quickly than injuries or soreness. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share a bit of information about stretching!
Why is it Important to Stretch?
If you’ve ever been to a live sporting event, there’s a darn good chance you’ve caught the athletes stretching and warming up on the field. Before the game starts, you’ll see football players jogging in place. You’ll catch basketball stars wrapping their arms around them as if to give themselves a hug.
What are they doing? Why is it so important that people stretch before physical activity?
Well, the most simple reason is this: you’ll be less prone to injury if you stretch before you exercise. After you warm up, stretching will allow your muscles to become more limber. When you exercise, you should know the group of muscles which you’ll be working out. For example, running will give your legs a nice workout, as well as your “core” and your upper arms.
Therefore, before you go out for a run, warm up a bit and then streeeeeetch those muscles. You’ll be less likely to hurt yourself as you run.
Furthermore, stretching both before and after you work out will greatly reduce the soreness you feel. Have you been jogging or walking to keep your New Year’s resolution? Have your calves and quadriceps felt as if they were on fire? Just a bit of stretching can all but eliminate that.
How Should You Stretch?
It used to be that everyone recommended simply stretching before and after a workout. Again, injuries and soreness are less common, as the tearing of muscles are less frequent.
But now, studies have shown that it’s not just important that you stretch during your periods of exercise. Instead, doctors and scientists are recommending that you stretch periodically – even on the days you don’t exercise!
Choose stretches which will impact all major muscle groups. Include your upper and lower legs, upper and lower arms, your core (belly area) and your back. And don’t forget about your neck! Do these stretches periodically throughout the week to increase your flexibility. Your body will thank you after your workouts!
Do you remember in grade school, when your teacher had you sit on the floor with your feet together, knees bent? You’d do a stretch called the “butterfly,” where you bounced your knees up and down.
Don’t do that. Doctors now know that bouncing during stretching can leave you prone to injury. You may do more harm than good.
Instead, find your stretch and hold it. You should feel a deep sensation in your muscles, almost like a massage. Keep the pose for 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly return to your original position.
Are you tired of reading and ready to go for a run? Read on to find the best stretches for runners. Warm up by walking for a few minutes, then stop and stretch! You can thank me when you get back home!
Lying Hamstring Stretch
To complete this stretch, you’ll need to lie on your back on the grass or another soft surface. Relax your upper body, and keep both legs straight as you lift one foot and pull that leg toward you.
If you can’t keep your leg perfectly straight, that’s okay. Don’t force it. You can bend your knee slightly, or even grip your leg behind the knee. Stretching like this will help you to gradually increase your flexibility, even if you can’t do it at first.
When I first started running, I didn’t know much about stretching. I would wake up the morning after a solid run and my calves were simply on fire. I thought I’d been doing my body good, but instead I ended up having to take days off from working out.
I soon bought a pair of the compression socks that, as you know by now, I swear by. I began to stretch my calves well before each workout and noticed a huge difference in my soreness. Learn from my mistakes – try this calf stretch before you run.
Simply stand facing a wall, and place your hands on the wall in front of your face. Then, place one foot behind you and gently press your heel into the floor. Again, don’t bounce. Just hold and stretch. Repeat with the other leg.
This stretch is easy, and if you do it after you run it feels sooooo nice. All you’ve got to do is keep your balance!
For the safest results, support yourself by placing your hand on a chair or a park bench. Raise one foot behind you and grasp it with your other hand. Using that hand, gently pull your foot toward your bottom.
Best. Stretch. Ever!
The groin is an often overlooked group of muscles which can be very much impacted when you run. The remedy? Those butterflies we just talked about.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching each other. Then, either using your hands or just your other muscles, gently push your knees toward the floor. Don’t be excessive – stretching should hurt. Just use enough pressure to feel that “massage” feeling.
These are the best stretches for the lower bodies of runners, but everyone can benefit from the flexibility they’ll gain. Try them out a few times each week, or even every morning when you wake up. You’ll be more flexible as a result, and you’ll be much less sore after your workouts.
Have fun on your run, and be sure to let me know how your resolutions are working out for you!