Taking time to stretch your muscles pays dividends

Your muscles with thank you if you follow these easy tips.

As a triathlete who does lots of swim, bike, and run workouts, I find it very hard to take the time out to stretch. Stretching has many benefits for our bodies. All of those benefits can be used by anyone, whether you’re an athlete who’s stretching to stay injury-free and be faster, or simply a person who wants to be able to bend over and tie your own shoes.

I went to a kinesiologist last year to get a bike fit done, and he noticed I was very inflexible. He took some time to explain to me how I can be faster on the bike and during my runs. I decided to start going to Yoga classes whenever I could, and I’ve definitely noticed the difference during this race season.

Many people think that Yoga is only for women, but that is not true at all. Both men and women can benefit from the great workout and stretches that a Yoga class provides.

Stretching has other great benefits as well. These include reduced muscle soreness; increased range of movement in the joints; enhanced muscular coordination; increased circulation of the blood to the muscles being stretched; and increased energy levels.

Whether you are young or old, a daily stretching routine can be done in only a few minutes if you are crunched for time. Each stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds and done 2–3 times. Never stretch until you feel pain. Some of the top stretches to do are:

Lie on your back and wrap a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull your knee up toward your chin and hold, then switch legs.

Touch your toes by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend over as far as you can and try to touch your toes. It’s okay to bend your knees a bit if you have to.

Side bends are when you clasp your hands straight up overhead, palms facing the ceiling. Gently lower to the right side until you feel a stretch down your left side. Switch sides and repeat.

Stretching is best done after a workout, when the muscles are warmed up. Avoid any stretching that causes a sharp pain or discomfort.

Wayne Little