I remember when I was a kid, one of the biggest goals I had was to be able to do the splits. It took slipping on wet grass to get me down, but I did it! My right side has always been more flexy than my left. Splits on the left require alcohol. #PartyTrickExclusive
The splits are becoming a birthday tradition for me now. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a party trick now…how lame that I didn’t land up on Broadway!?
When it came to running I used to do the good ol’ “static” stretches, focusing a lot on my hamstrings. Touching toes, stretching out the quads by pulling my foot back to reach my bum, bringing my arms across my body and holding it for 10 seconds on each side. All the official-looking people do this, so it must be the right thing to do.
Stretching this way before a run is not actually great for us. Stretching “cold” muscles before warming up can cause injury and injury = the worst ever. In addition to the chance of injury, it can actually cause a loss of strength and it decreases performance in running and jumping. The understanding behind this is not so clear, however with tests using a thingum called a dynamometer, they have been able to measure the validity of this statement, and thus it is true “because I say so”, not so much because “I understand why”.
A few years ago I attended a dance workshop and they worked on our flexibility slowly. It was a combination of massage, relaxation through a form of meditation, muscle contraction and then release. The instructor had us at “listen to my voice”, lying there on our yoga mats (mental relaxation). We then rolled around on tennis balls (massage). The final element was pairing us up and having the one girl “fight” against her partner for a couple of seconds (creating muscle contraction) and then releasing and allowing the partner to push the leg back a little further each time until we were full on Elasti-girls. The reason why I bring this up is because I finally understand that this is now absolutely a thing. Studies have shown that muscle contraction is able to improve performance, and there is an assumption that there is some neuro stuff getting involved there too.
A moment of serious-ness:
It has been recommended that when completing static stretches, holding a stretch anywhere between 15-30 seconds is the most productive, as well as repeating each stretch 2-4 times.
Static stretching increases range of motion for us, and so it is absolutely vital to incorporate it into any routine, however it has its place in a particular place and when it comes to a warm up before running, it can quite frankly just be avoided. Static stretching should be done when you are already warmed up. So save it for post-work out. Do not omit it!
Now, allow me to introduce you to the kind of stretching one should indeed be completing before a run. It’s called dynamic stretching. *And the crowd goes WILD! Dynamic stretching allows you to warm up without stretching out too much. It contains movements with a lot of movement, rather than holding positions for a long time. It helps you with loosening and warming up simultaneously.
Here are a couple of examples of dynamic stretching, however I will share videos with you soon!:
You’ll want to get your balance for this. If you’re in the parking lot at Hobart then perhaps hold on to a car 😉
Simply stand on one leg and swing the other leg forwards and backwards.
With your body and legs facing forward, open your legs wider than usual and then lunge to the side keeping your feet facing forward.
This one is pretty well known and self explanatory.
So, the next time you see an athletic human warming up with static stretches, just giggle on the inside and know that you know better than that!
Here are a couple of static stretches which you can use to cool down from an activity.