How to increase flexibility. Recently, I was speaking with an ex-runner friend who very confidently informed me that stretching is bad for runners. The reason, as far as I could tell, was because it actually impedes speed. Naturally, I ran right over to my physiotherapist to see if everything I had learned was completely wrong. He assured me that this was not the case and that the benefits of increasing your flexibility (for most of us) far outweigh the negatives. The key to proper stretching is to warm up your muscles and not to over-stretch them.
How important is stretching? Do you stretch before a workout or post workout? Do you even need to stretch at all? Personally I am a huge fan of stretching. Functional flexibility is vital to your very well being. I don’t mean that you need to be able to do the splits, to do a high kick or even to touch your toes. Just simply working on your elasticity will help protect you as you get older. Being pain-free and agile is a good thing.
From The Importance Of Stretching
HOW TO INCREASE FLEXIBILITY
PRE WORKOUT DYNAMIC STRETCHING
You never want to force yourself into a long stretch when your muscles are cold, sore and stiff. Instead, opt for moves like lunges (front and side), squats and jumping jacks to warm up your body. Do about 3o of each for a good warm up. Even if you aren’t doing a workout these are great first thing in the morning to get your heart rate up and your muscles working.
POST WORKOUT STATIC STRETCHING
You can do static stretching after your workout or if your body is warmed up. Just remember to ease into your stretches and focus on relaxing your muscles. Some deep breathing should help with this. You will be stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and back.
Hamstrings. Lying on your back, place your right foot in a band or a yoga strap. Gently pull your leg up toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch and hold for 20-30 seconds. If you are fairly flexible then lengthen your left leg on the floor. The other option is to keep your left knee bent while you keep your foot flat on the floor.
Quadriceps. Lying on your side (legs stacked) bend your top knee and gently pull your heel toward your glutes. Don’t arch your back and keep your pelvis in a neutral position. You should also feel this stretch in your hip flexors (the front of your hips). This stretch can also be done while lying on your stomach. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Glutes/Piriformis (supine pigeon prep). Lying on your back, place your right foot on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right thigh. With your left hand reaching between your legs, pull them toward you. If you don’t have the flexibility to hold this pose, simply place your right foot on a wall at a 90 degree angle to the floor. You can also gently press your hand on your left thigh. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Spine twist. Lying on your back, arms out to your sides bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Breathe deeply and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat. Another variation on this stretch is to straighten one leg along the floor and bend the opposite one across your body. I find that I get a better stretch with the second option.
If your muscles are knotted and tight you won’t get very far with your stretching. Having regular massages helps and is a wonderful luxury but you can get a similar effect at home with a foam roller and you can do it whenever you want. Try rolling out each muscle group 10-15 times.
Roll out your back. Place the roller width wise just beneath your shoulders, hands behind your head. Lift your glutes off the floor and using your legs roll out your back. Just be careful not to roll too low onto your lower back.
Hamstrings. Prop yourself up on your hands with the roller beneath your hamstrings and roll back and forth. You might find that you need to cross one leg over the other.
Quads. Place the roller beneath your quadriceps and prop yourself up your forearms. Roll back and forth. I like to put my weight on one leg and then the other for a deeper massage.
Glutes. Sitting up on the roller with your hands on the floor behind you bend your right leg and cross your left ankle over your right knee. Roll back and forth. Switch legs.
Iliotibial band. Warning, this one can get really painful. Lying on your side, legs stacked roll from just above your knee up to your hip. If this is too painful simply place your top leg in front of you on the floor.
When it comes to stretching, it’s something you should be doing several times a week, if not everyday. Remember that you don’t need to spend hours and hours stretching, but a few minutes a day will go a long way.
How often do you stretch?
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