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Stretching Exercises – Feel the Stretch

Book about StretchingA few weeks ago I wrote a post about my 22 day challenge to work on my stretching.

As I mentioned in the post, a lot of my requirement is to stretch my hamstrings to ease my muscular back pain. Running, BMF and cycling all work in the opposite way of trying to shorten my hamstrings

There are many benefits to static stretching post work out. It improves circulation, reduces soreness and improves blood flow. All of which aids recovery and improves later performance. It can also help avoid injury that can be the death nail to a lot of training plans and PB hopes. It can also help calm the mind and provide a mental break by taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to focus.

So how did I get on?

I got on fairly well. Straight away my back started to feel better. I missed a few days, but tried to make up for it by having the odd stretch whenever I had a few minutes. My flexibility improved quickly. I am not quite where I previously was, but much better.

I have been following some exercises from The Book about Stretching. The book is from 1985 and is Swedish, so some of the English is fairly forthright. There are some classic sentences in the book. Such as-

“The word bouncing does not belong in our stretching vocabulary”

“You don’t compete in stretching”

Both very good points……

I selected a number of stretches from the book, which I practiced. I focused on my hamstrings and the opposing muscles but tried to get a few others involved too.

The principle recommended in the book is to tighten muscle for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax for 2-3 seconds then stretch the muscle out for 10 -30 seconds.

Below is a selection of examples from the book –IMG_3561

IMG_3564IMG_3567 2

There are also some very useful tips.

  • Stretch the front muscles of the thigh before stretching the hamstrings for better results.
  • If you are tighter on one side than the other, always start on the “worst” side, as you automatically spend more time on the side you start with.
  • Relax and don’t hold breath. Simple but easily forgotten.

As I said, I did miss a few days but I paid special attention and gave extra time to my stretching following a tough training session. I slipped extra stretches into my day, for example waiting for the kettle to boil. When getting up from my desk and any general time waiting around for people or the train.

This shows that although it is good to take specific time out to stretch, they can be done fairly quickly and can be incorporated into your day. You can stretch while you watch TV, you can stretch while you are on the phone (it is good to walk around whilst on the phone anyway, so you can squeeze a couple of calf stretches in), whilst standing in the kitchen cooking, waiting for your tea to brew or your smoothie to become smooth.Stretch head up

As I get older, I think it is important to maintain my mobility and range of movement. I can get a little creaky the morning after a long run and stretching really assistances me not walk around like an old crooked man.

I still need to dedicate more time to my stretching to make some real progress. Though have not quite managed to make it a habit as yet but will continue to try and do so.

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