22 Aug Is Stretching Really Necessary?
‘I have hurt my back and can’t exercise for 4 weeks’ – something I hear all the time and also something that could often be so easily prevented by doing this 1 simple thing that should be part of everybody’s workout routine – STRETCHING.
But it is commonly regarded as ‘pointless’ ‘not all that important’ possibly because it doesn’t feel hard and in many people’s minds only what feels hard will give us results.
So here is why you NEED to stretch, what it should feel like and how often you should be doing it!
During exercise our muscles get tense, tight and shorten. Tight muscles pull on bones as they are attached to our bones through ligaments. Imagine a rubber band that holds all of our bones together. You can easily lengthen those muscles by stretching after every workout to get them back into the shape they should be. Failure to stretch means with every workout your muscles get shorter and tighter and pull on your bones more and more which ultimately results in injuries – think lower back pains, knee pains, shin splints – these are all very common injuries related to stiff muscles and it’s often a slow process that we don’t notice until we feel pain.
I find the picture of exercise shortening muscles and with that muscles needing to be pulled back to their original length really helpful!
- What it should feel like
Stretching should be felt as a ‘slight’ pulling feeling. When we go into a stretch we stop when we feel pulling and then hold the position until the pulling feeling disappears, then move deeper into the stretch and repeat this about 3 times. This assures our muscles are well stretched! The pulling feeling can feel like a slight pain at first but quickly subsides as the muscle lengthens and releases
- How often
Minimum amount of stretching at the end of every workout for 5-10mins. However sometimes this may not be enough and stretching for 5mins several times a day is required. It is always best to stretch while your muscles are warmed up, like rubber bands, they will stretch much easier while warm but they can be stretched cold as well, just be more careful going into the stretch to make sure you don’t injure your muscle! In case of severe tightness it might also be helpful to have a massage along with regular stretching routines! Remember stretching reduces your risk of injuries tremendously, so those 5mins extra will be really beneficial in the long run especially as we get older and our body naturally gets stiffer and less flexible!
If you are unsure how to stretch, follow my in depth post workout stretch routine below. I have put it together for post running, however it is a perfect stretch routine post ALL workouts especially those working your lower body!