Improve Your Training By Stretching.

June 1 | Posted by The SportsAndFamily.com Staff | Training

Every fitness training program comes with a standard disclosure, or better yet disclaimer that outlines the basic do’s and don’ts for safe and effective workouts. The workout “rules” are ominous in their simplicity and demand no extra effort to carry out; concepts like “stay hydrated”, “get a check up prior to starting any sports training program”, “warm up and cool down” and “take the time to stretch before your workout”. These are just a few of the exercise basics that are recognized to be the keys to successful sports training, and neglecting the fundamentals will almost certainly undermine your training progress. Well, not always.

Consider for a moment the reasons why pre-workout stretching is so important. Stretching before engaging in any exercise warms up your muscles and “prepares” them for the harder impact and greater stress that they are about to endure. Stretching your muscles makes them more flexible and ultimately less susceptible to pain and injury. Running places high stress and hard impact workout on every lower body muscle, and has been known to send runners in peak training condition in search of a whirlpool bath to relieve their stiff and sore muscles. How can an exercise that yields so many healthy benefits to the body and mind have the capability to painfully zap your flexibility. It’s inconceivable to think that there are any negative aspects of running.

The truth of the matter is that tightened muscles and reduced flexibility is actually the key to better running economy, or achieving greater results with less work. The overall tightening of the leg joints and tissues that comes from running causes the leg muscles to react similar to a tightened spring. This condition increases the muscles capability as an efficient energy receptor, and will not only be able to take in more energy produced by the impact but to also be better equipped to reuse all that energy to launch forward motion. This creates a decreased demand on the runners energy and serve to increase endurance and stamina. Don’t give up stretching altogether as a means to intensify your fitness training because it is important to maintain a normal range of motion in your knees and ankles.

Maintaining a regular range of motion won’t be jeopardized by running, and although a very slight decrease may result it is inconsequential. Other factors like sitting or wearing shoes have been shown to be potentially more harmful than running. Muscles adapt to the conditions that they are exposed to the most, and over long periods of time (years, not hours) the muscles will adapt through functional shortening. All that means is that the muscles will function as if they had shrunk.which will certainly hinder running economy and performance. They haven’t shrunken of course, but the constant forced tension that they have to hold from a prolonged sitting position causes them to function that way. Stretching will gradually flex these tensed muscles out of the functional shortening condition that they are in.

Stretching as a running warm up is still beneficial because it will work to reverse muscular functional shortening and help to maintain a normal range of motion. The decrease in flexibility that requires stretching exercises to reverse is not caused solely from running, and are minute in comparison to the effects of long term sitting.

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