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
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.
If you've tried stretching exercises before and didn't
discover any of these benefits, its probably because you were
There are two wrong ways to do it.
Deep breathing aids concentration, smoothes, relaxes muscles
and increases energy, enabling you to get the most from every
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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