Stretching before and after exercise is one of the easiest habits to form, and one of the most neglected. Why is it worth your time to stretch? Because it can prevent injuries, increase flexibility, and ensure a more comfortable run. Runners should warm up for five to ten minutes before they start stretching. Once the muscles are warm, they loosen up, allowing for safer and deeper stretches. Try these dynamic (moving) gentle stretches before your next workout:
- Swing your arms up and down and across the body.
- Twist at the waist to warm up and stretch the core.
- Bend forward at the waist to touch your toes; then bend backward to reach your heels.
- Rotate your hips clockwise and then again counter clockwise.
- Hold onto a post or wall to keep your balance, and swing your leg back and forth. Be sure to switch sides to get both legs.
Once you finish a run or workout, do some of the following static (stationary) stretches to relax the muscles you just exercised:
- Pull each arm across the front of your body.
- Standing with your legs together, bend at the waist and touch your toes.
- Standing with your legs spread wide apart, bend at the waist and touch your toes.
- Lean into side lunges.
- Place the sole of your shoe against a wall and lean into it to stretch your calves.
Listen to your body when you stretch, and don’t over do it. You should be able to feel the sensation of your muscles pulling and then relaxing, but it shouldn’t be painful. Over stretching can lead to injury, such as muscle tearing or pulling. Not stretching enough, however, can do the same thing.