Whenever you exercise be sure to
Stretch first after your
warm-up, when your muscles aren't so tight, and again after the cool-down
period. Stretching for five minutes after you warm up will improve your workout
and help prevent injuries.
Why? Because repetitive exercise tends to
reduce muscle flexibility. Also, tissues like muscle and skin lose elasticity
with age. So if you increase the intensity or duration of your workouts,
maintaining muscular flexibility in your lower legs, thighs, gluteals and back
will become even more important. Without proper stretching, your range of
motion will become limited, which will adversely affect your running and
swimming technique. For example, tightness in the upper shoulder area will
reduce the effectiveness of the pull and glide part of your freestyle swim
stroke, slowing you down. And tightness in the hamstrings can decrease your
stride length in running, forcing you to expend more energy to make up the
There are stretching techniques for almost every major
muscle group. If you aren't familiar with different techniques, consult any
sports physiologist or coach for advice. Below are some tips to help you
stretch properly no matter what technique you use.
- Never stretch cold muscles. Be sure to
warm them up before stretching.
- Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds to
give your muscle time to adapt to the stretch.
- Never bounce in a stretching pose or
force a muscle into a position that causes pain.
- Relax and breathe deeply and slowly
while holding each stretch position.
- If you are stretching your arms, legs
or sides, remember to stretch both sides.