Stretching is often the unsung hero behind sports performance. It is often forgotten about, ignored or questioned, but ask any elite athlete how important stretching is to their performance and you’ll soon be swayed. So, no matter how tempting it is to exercise or play sport with no pre or post stretching routine, it’s time to think again. Here’s why.
Improving your performance
Stretching helps to ensure your muscles perform optimally and your bones are strong and protected from damage. Overall sporting performance is improved by stretching because of the flexibility and mobility gains, as well as increased circulation. The result is more power, greater endurance, improved recovery times and enhanced physical abilities. If you take stretching seriously, you’ll also notice fewer injuries, particularly annoying muscular niggles.
Increasing blood flow around your body
The more you stretch, the more you allow blood to flow around your entire body. The improvements in circulation from stretching shouldn’t be underestimated. Increased blood flow is associated with skin development, cell replacement, a faster metabolism, hair growth and so on. Plus, there will be less strain on your heart, as well as a feeling of less stress.
Reversing physical inactivity
When you are stationary for a long period of time, your muscles stiffen, shorten and get tighter. Stretching helps to reverse the effects of physical inactivity and keep both muscle and bone in healthy shape. Stretching means your bones can expand and grow, as well as keeps the muscles around them loose and supple. Doing so helps to prevent muscular fractures and similar injuries.
Work harder, recover faster
As mentioned already, stretching plays a key part in recovery and physicality. Stretching isn’t just for sporting performance, however, but also vital for core strength and technique. The more supple and loose your muscles, the better your technique as your body will be able to bend and stretch more. Stretched muscles heal a lot quicker as well, so post-exercise stretching is important for reducing recovery time.
Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching
It’s easy to forget to stretch, especially if you are time-short. But don’t underestimate the powers of your stretching routine. Additional to the above, you’ll find a supple and stretched body makes you feel a lot less stretched (think about the ‘zen’ benefits of yoga), and secondary benefits such as improved posture also play a part in generally feeling healthier and better.
So, whether you stretch already, sometimes stretch, or never stretch, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of improved muscle conditioning by adding stretching to your routine. If you find stretching boring or don’t know what to do, there are plenty of videos available to guide you, and you can try activities such as yoga to improve overall flexibility.