Flexibility and Activity - Why it Helps!
In short, some flexibility is really important, but not just for good running technique. There is a wealth of literature to show that flexibility should form a key pillar of any activity, sport or exercise. It is crucial for injury prevention and improving the strength of joints, tendons and ligaments – all the pieces required for good running technique! Plus the overall benefits of improving core strength, posture and joint health. Never fear though, improving flexibility doesn’t mean running off to the circus to become a contortionist, nor do you have to be a yoga guru.
What’s the best way to warm up and remain flexible?
Warm up prior to working out - this should be dynamic, think body weight squats, burpees, the trusty star jump. This warm up should actually bring you out in a light sweat even before you head off on your run. After your run/training session – now that your muscles are warm, dedicate some time to stretching out those hard-working muscles and aim for all of your muscle groups.
Muscles are complex structures attached to robust tendons. So, to stretch them and create change in a muscle they need to relax into the stretch and be held there, nice and still, for at least 10 long breaths. Repeat this up to 3 times to really work on length of the stretch.
In this day and age, life and work are all too often full of hectic schedules and stress. Stress can cause us all to tighten up into little balls of knots which are no help to our muscles. Taking time to unwind can also be considered helpful to improving your flexibility – in this case, meditation to focus on breathing techniques, light yoga and even short walks to clear the mind can be excellent techniques for improving flexibility.
Finally, hydrated muscles are happy muscles. Keeping them well topped up allows muscles to work at their best. Focusing on hydration won’t instantly give you a full downward facing dog pose, but it will optimise the chances of getting there cramp free.