It is a component of fitness which is arguably one of the most important, yet one that is left out of many an athletes training regime. Often the intent is there but so are the excuses. Every time we train, our muscles spasm and tighten as a result of the stresses placed on them, this then hinders performance.
Traditionally stretching improves flexibility. Allowing time for stretching as part of your sessions will maximise the quality of your training and reduce the risk of injury.
As well as improving flexibility, stretching is also beneficial for decreasing muscle soreness and increasing circulation. Interestingly with all the benefits stretching has to offer most athletes do not spend adequate time stretching. Yet almost all have time to eat a recovery meal within the golden hour post training.
Range of movement determined by flexibility is vital when applied to swim, run, and bike. Here are some typical examples:
Swim – If you do not have the shoulder flexibility to perform the freestyle stroke correctly then you are opening yourself up to ‘swimmers shoulder’ which involves painful tendonitis or impingement within the shoulder.
Cycle – The hip flexor muscle group pays a huge part in the upward pedaling motion, drawing the thigh to the trunk. If you do not keep your hip flexors stretched they will shorten and tighten commonly indicated by lower back pain.
Run – Tight calves put means more stress on the achillies tendon and can be the cause of achillies tendonitis.
Types of stretching include:
Dynamic – consisting of rhythmic movements conducted usually immediately prior to activity.
Static – Passive stretching of the muscle, holding for 30-60secs usually conducted post activity.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) – Stretching that involves both contracting and relaxing of muscles being actively stretched with a partner.
Ballistic stretching – consists of repetitive bouncing movements forcing muscles to stretch, this stretching technique is not usually recommended due to the risk of injury.
It’s never too late to include stretching into your daily routine. Consider a midweek yoga session where you can focus solely on stretching, slow the ever increasing tempo of life down and free your mind and body from stress and tightness.
Be kind to the body and it will be kind to you.