I know that runners hate to stretch. You might think it’s kind of like flossing your teeth: you know it’s good for you, but you’re most likely only to do it when you have a dentist appointment next week or you’ve got a popcorn kernel stuck in your gums. Stretching is the same for many of us; stretching is one of those things that we do when something hurts or is slowing us down. But stretching your muscles has some great benefits, including preventing injuries, reducing soreness and potentially making you run faster.
Look no further than elite runners at many races. Watch the Kenyans and Ethiopians do their warm-ups. They tend to stretch a lot as a group. The reason is that running actually tightens and shortens your muscles. In order to loosen (or lengthen) muscles, you need to stretch them out again. Think about how hard it is to run when you are feeling “tight”. Now think of trying to run really fast on tight muscles. That’s hard to do. These elite folks know that keeping loose and long muscles is what allows them to extend and keep their strides long.
Here are five signs that your body may be telling you that you need to stretch!
1. Your heels hurt before you get out of bed in the morning — if you’re lying in bed and you can feel your heels being tender then you need to work on stretching out your feet and calf muscles. This feeling may be the pre-cursor of the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the fascia in the feet — and it hurts a lot. The key is to make those feet and calves loose and limber. Start by stretching your feet even before you get out of bed in the morning.
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