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The Importance of Stretching

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Why stretch?

It’s absolutely vital that before any strenuous activity is undertaken, the muscles to be used are warmed up and prepared in readiness for the work to come. Therefore all warm up routines should be event specific and for explosive type events, dynamic.

For the middle/long distance runners of Dudley Ladies, stretching of the muscles from the waist down before and after exercise are the ones to concentrate on.

From our experience of talking to and working with female beginners over the years, we have found that a lot of women tend to wear “heels” during the day and may not have done any exercise for several years. This has the effect of gradually shortening and tightening the calf muscles. The girls suddenly decide that they want to run and without any preparation at all, they put on a pair of flats/trainers start taking bigger strides than they are normally used to on hard tarmac/concrete roads with cold shortened muscles and…….Bang, they pull a muscle!!!

To reduce this risk of injury, stretching is needed in order to bring the shortened muscles back to their original length and to reduce or avoid post exercise stiffness.

The purpose of stretching is to try to increase the range of movement around a joint or a group of joints. This helps to strengthen the joint and as well as increasing the flow of blood into the muscles around it.

Before a race or training run, the best time to stretch is immediately after a short easy jog or some other activity that has stimulated blood flow and raised your body temperature. Each stretch should be held for no less than 10 seconds, without any bouncing or sudden movements.

After your race or training run, you again need to bring the muscles used back to their original length. During any physical activity the muscles used tense up, contract and shorten. The first you know about it is when your muscles start to ache or get tight and stiff.

To help reduce or prevent post exercise muscle stiffness, you now need to lengthen and loosen the muscles back to their pre-exercise level by holding your warm-down stretches for longer – i.e. 30 seconds or more.

Below are a few tips on how to stretch properly and a brief description of our warm-up routine which we recommend that you do as a minimum. There are many other good exercises and different ways of stretching the same joints but these exercises will be a good start in helping to prevent you from getting injured.

Ten tips on how to stretch

1. Do everything slowly.

2. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and for at least 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down).

3. Breathe normally and relax while holding the stretch to the point of pain.

4. NEVER, EVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax.

5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it.

6. If a particular muscle group is tight, then stretch it in stages. Stretch as far as you can, then relax it and stretch again. This is most important during cool-down.

7. Move slowly out of the stretch.

8. Remember to stretch both sides of the body.

9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle.

10. Do more stretching in addition to just warming-up and cooling-down. As we get older our muscles shorten naturally, and it is vital for everyone that stretching becomes part of your normal everyday life. Gyms that offer stretch-classes or Yoga, where the aim is to permanently and progressively increase your flexibility are well worth considering if time and money allows.

 

Dudley Ladies Warm-up Routine

At Dudley Ladies, we all do the same warm-up routine before every run. Because there are so many of us and we usually meet indoors, our warm up routine centres around a number of static flexibility exercises and stretches and to make things easy to remember, we start with the muscles at the top of the body and work our way down.

Never stretch cold muscles. If you can't warm up with a gentle jog then wave your arms about or do anything you can think of to raise your pulse rate and warm up your body before doing the following :-

 

Feet slightly apart, stand up straight and stretch for the sky.

Feet slightly apart, stand up straight and stretch Left.

Feet slightly apart, stand up straight and stretch Right

Feet slightly apart, stand up straight and stretch Backwards.

Feet slightly apart, stand up straight and stretch Forwards

 

Feet slightly apart, stretch to touch Left Ankle

Feet slightly apart, stretch to touch Right Ankle

Feet slightly apart, stretch to touch as far back between legs as possible.

 

 

 

Hands on Shoulders, in order to keep them straight, rotate Hips 10 times to the Left

Hands on Shoulders, in order to keep them straight, rotate Hips 10 times to the Right

 

 

 

Pull up Right Knee to chest and hold until a pulling is felt in the Hamstrings just below the buttocks.

Pull up Left Knee to chest and hold until a pulling is felt in the Hamstrings just below the buttocks.

 

 

 

Pull up Right Foot so that heel touches your bottom and hold when pull is felt on front of thigh quadriceps.

Pull up Left Foot so that heel touches your bottom and hold when pull is felt on front of thigh quadriceps.

 

 

 

Lunge forward, putting all weight onto Right foot, stretch groin by pushing hips forward and keeping back straight.

Lunge forward, putting all weight onto Left foot, stretch groin by pushing hips forward and keeping back straight.

 

 

Lean against a bar or wall, feet pointing forwards. Slowly press hips forward keeping knees straight.

Hold when you feel ‘pull’ in calves

 

 

If no wall or bar is available,

Stretch calf by placing feet comfortably apart, keep trunk upright with weight over rear leg.

Rear foot must point straight forward. Move front foot slowly forward.

Hold when stretch felt in calf of rear leg. Repeat with opposite foot forward.

 

 

Place Right Foot onto a bar or raised support.

Bend supporting leg and reach out to touch your toes, until a pull is felt in the Hamstrings

Place Left Foot onto bar, bend supporting leg and reach out to touch your toes, until a pull is felt in the Hamstrings

 

If no bar is available, place one foot in front of the other, a small step apart.

Sit back on the back leg (weight on the back leg). Stretch front leg, flexing foot upwards for extra resistance.

Lift your buttocks and bend supporting leg.

Press down on out-stretched knee until a pull is felt in the Hamstring just below your buttocks in the out-stretched leg.

 

 

Standing feet together, raise and lower heels 10 times

Standing feet together, go over on outside of feet 10 times

Standing feet together, go over on inside of feet 10 times

 

 

 

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For More Information Contact:

Dudley Ladies Running Club
c/o Wombourne Leisure Centre
Tel 01902 898202 or
Email: rita@dudleyladies.co.uk

Site Last modified: January 29, 2016