LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Smart Exercise


Development of flexibility is more than just loosening up before your run. It is a vital and essential part of the balanced training program whether you are an athlete or exercise for health. Stretching helps you to achieve your maximum range of motion which translates into better form and increased efficiency during your workout. it develops concentration and endurance as you learn to focus the attention on the breath and hold the postures 

It also reduces the likelihood of injury and prevents lactic acid build-up which causes fatigue and painful cramping. Finally, the following program works specifically to strengthen as well as to stretch all of the muscles you use in running. 

The DOS & DON'TS of Proper Stretching

If you've tried stretching exercises before and didn't discover any of these benefits, its probably because you were stretching incorrectly. 

There are two wrong ways to do it. 

  1. "Passive Stretching" is practiced by those who think that just hanging out in a given position, waiting for gravity to do their work for them will stretch the muscles and develop greater flexibility. Usually these people are preoccupied with thinking of the daily errands and only half aware of what they are doing. This kind of stretching does nothing for the development of concentration or flexibility.

  2. Proponents of "Aggressive Stretching" bend, force and bounce themselves into position with gritted teeth, clenched fists and gnarled foreheads. They rip away at both ends of an unrelaxed or cold muscle and can actually injure themselves-weakening and tearing muscles while attaining absolutely no flexibility. Ballistic motion activates the "stretch reflex" which actually brings about a shortening of the muscles you're trying to stretch 
  3. "Active (or proper) Stretching" on the other hand, involves total concentration and hard work. It requires patience, practice and perseverance--the ability to stick with a certain posture until you achieve a greater range of motion. Yet it also requires surrender--the ability to relax into a given posture and play the muscle to the edge of its stretch. 


Deep breathing aids concentration, smoothes, relaxes muscles and increases energy, enabling you to get the most from every mile. 

Many runners tend to stop the breath at mid-chest or even higher. Yet at full abdominal breath-inhaling all the way down to the pelvis--actually requires less energy expenditure and is far more efficient than three to four upper chest pants. You may wish to practice "belly breathing" using your total lung capacity, inhaling fully and deeply down to the abdomen--several times before you begin your stretching exercises. 


A muscle can only be stretched safely when it is warm. You can run for a couple of minutes to work up a sweat, and then stretch. Or, save your stretching routing until right after you've finished running. It's ideal to do both, but pick whatever works best for you. 

The best place to stretch is on a towel or mat indoors--or on a flat, open stretch of grass outside. Bare feet are better for balance and stability so consider taking off your shoes. 


Remember to move gently at all times and never strain. Never bounce, or jerk yourself into position. Move through your routine with awareness. Never "collapse" out of a stretching "pose". The idea is to build strength with this practice, not wear yourself out. We all have different areas of tightness and different problems of flexibility. So don't expect to be equally proficient in all the postures. Adapt or modify these exercises, as necessary, to suit your own level of ability and your training needs. 

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LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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