As you get started with your fitness protocol and begin regular running, you must make sure you are also devoting a regular part of your workout to stretching as well.

Many people often overlook stretching entirely because they either figure it’s not going to provide benefits or they’re simply too rushed to get it in. If you do this however, rest assured, you will pay the price for doing so over time.

Let’s walk you through why stretching is so important and how to make sure you are doing it correctly as you go about your fitness program.

Why Stretch?

The first reason to stretch is to avoid chronic muscular pain. If you are very tense and tight leaving a workout and have a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles from your run, this could leave you waking up extra sore the next day.

If you’re running on a regular basis, this could then mean that you are experiencing continual soreness and muscle pain; pain that never seems to ease up.
Stretching after your workout helps to loosen up the muscle tissues so that you can wake up the next morning feel better and less likely to experience the unwanted post workout muscle soreness.

As you eventually get started with weight training, if that is a form of exercise you want to do as well, you will want to really ensure you are doing your stretching as this workout variety will definitely lead you with some soreness when you begin.

In addition to that, regular stretching is also going to increase your overall range of movement as well. The more flexible you are as the result of regular stretching, the greater the range of motion you’ll have as you go about your exercise sessions.

This means improved results since you can work the muscles more completely. When out for your run, if you’re more flexible, this can also mean a better stride, reducing your risk of injuries.

Stretching Safely

So now that you can see why you should be stretching, how do you go about stretching correctly?

First, you’ll want to make sure that you are always warmed up before you start doing your stretching. This will help reduce the risk that you suffer from a muscle strain or tear as you try and improve your flexibility, pushing your body through a further range of motion than its’ used to.

Many people will simply just schedule their stretching to take place after their runs when they are already warm, however you can also perform stretching on your off days provided you do a gentle warm-up beforehand.

Five to ten minutes of light activity should be sufficient.

Then once you are stretching, the most important thing to remember as you go about doing this is to never bounce through the movement pattern. You want to stretch and hold the position for a good 20-30 seconds, never bouncing as you move.

If you bounce the body to try and move further, such as jerking yourself forward in a hamstring stretch for example, you run a very high risk of straining that muscle and the result will be excessive pain for days as it then has to heel.

Instead, stretch slightly further than comfortable so you do feel that light pull on the muscle and then just hold. Momentum should never come into the equation.

As you’re doing your stretching, also remember to breathe as you move deeply into the stretch. Breathing deeply, especially as you move through the exhale will help your body move deeper into the stretch, realizing greater benefits.

Hold each stretch for a minimum of 20-30 seconds before releasing and repeating. Two rounds of stretching for the same stretch will yield optimal results as you should find that you are able to stretch further on that second round.

So there you have the basic information to know about proper stretching. It is one form of exercise that is a must to build a well-rounded fitness plan and improve your running performance. Your flexibly will decline with age if you aren’t constantly working at it, so stretching will prevent that from taking place.

Have you tried these breathing techniques? What worked best for you? Share your tips, struggles, and stories in the comments below.