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When is the appropriate time to stretch your muscles? Stretching is my favorite part of exercise. It is the time I can connect with my body and feel the different muscles I have worked. It helps me keep in tune with the areas where I experience discomfort or strength, directing me how to adjust my future exercise routine or run.
Our expert contributors have given us their stretching advice. Learn when is the appropriate time to stretch and the benefits of stretching when you include it as part of your routine.
Warm up, Exercise, Then Stretch!
An effective exercise routine includes three parts. First, it is important to warm up and move all your limbs to get the blood flowing. The actual “exercise” part can be cardio, weight lifting or any other resistance training. Finally, it’s time to stretch, and this is the part many folks neglect.
Oftentimes I’ll see people stretching in order to get ready to exercise. This can be a way to invite injury as muscles are cold and even if you’re careful, micro tears can occur. Stretching should always be done after an exercise routine, when the muscles are warm and ready to….well, stretch. Many people confuse warming up and stretching. An elliptical machine is a good way to warm up. An exercise mat, laid on the floor is a good place to stretch. It helps to think of it in that way.
The best, and safest way to stretch is to start with the big muscles first. Ham strings, thighs and calves are easy to work by trying to get your head to touch your knees when sitting on a mat. You can do one or both legs at a time. Arms and shoulders are best worked with a towel held behind you while attempting to get your hand into the middle of your back. Some people can do this without a towel, but I never could.
Don’t forget your back. Lay flat on the floor and pull your legs into your chest. A small rocking motion not only helps stretch those muscles but can also help align your spine.
One final word. Your stretching routine is an important part of your workout. Don’t short change it!
Ed Boullianne, Author / Presenter, BlueWater Health Concepts
Stretch AFTER You Exercise
Stretch before and after is old school advice. Current research shows that stretching is far more effective after your muscles have been warmed-up from aerobic exercise. Stretching is important for athletic performance but not for your health, (i.e. it is not going to help lower your cholesterol levels). Studies done on runners showed that stretching before a run actually decreased the runners’ performance and efficiency. They had less spring in their step! Lastly, stretching does not prevent injuries, a common myth.
Do you stretch after every run? Why do you find this practice beneficial?
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