Exercise is one of the cornerstones of good health. But do most people begin and end their workout regime to get its optimum benefit? Exercising is known to cause muscle shortening. Routine stretching counteracts this process, promoting flexibility in the muscles and joints, helping them move through their full range of motion.
When I first started going to the gym, I wanted to get my workout over and done with as quickly as possible. Little did I know that I was short changing all of my efforts by skipping both pre and post workout stretching. Doing a pre-workout stretch warms up the muscles and enables the them to control the stress placed on them. It also allows for increased flexibility. As an added bonus, it gets the juices flowing and sets the tone for your workout!
Here is an interesting tidbit. What you eat may be able to improve your flexibility. According to a post by Brenda Barron leafy greens such as kale, spinach, swiss chard and watercress may help to increase flexibility because of their high water content as well as their ability to purge acid from the body. And of course hydration is an important part of a flexibility diet.
As mentioned earlier, exercising causes muscles to shorten. You may be in a world of pain the next day if you don’t add a post-workout stretch to your routine. While your muscles are warm, stretching will allow for an increase of blood circulation and will subsequently enable your muscles to recover faster. It will also reduce muscle fatigue.
All this being said, it is equally important to maintain proper technique; stretching should not be a painful process – its main goal is to reduce the risk of injury. So strap on those running shoes, warm up that body, work hard and finish strong with a solid cool down.