THE BENEFITS OF STRETCHING
Finding time to stretch after a session is often impossible. We have buses/trains to catch, our parents are telling us to hurry up, and we often prioritise food. But stretching is often the easiest thing we miss out on that could contribute to making us better athletes.
For me, flexibility used to be a major issue which stopped me from reaching streamline positions, good dive start positions and contributed to many injuries due to poor posture and sitting in cars, trains and buses for hours to get to training. Like with many things in life, practicing something will make a difference. Spending time focussing on the areas you have the most issues with will slowly, often very slowly, start to get better. You don’t have to spend hours doing it either. 10-20minutes after a session is enough to help increase flexibility and it will also aid the recovery process. Stretching out muscles that have been worked in a session can help reduce muscle fatigue and as our muscles are warm, injury risk is reduced.
Post-session stretching is also a great opportunity to gossip with friends, as like Lowri pointed out in her latest blog, swimming can be a lonely sport with little opportunity to chat during training. Using team mates to help you stretch is also beneficial (partnered stretching) as an increase range of movement can be achieved. With my team at The University of Edinburgh, we try to do a yoga session at least once a week. Focussing on mobility and recovery, yoga can help improve our back, hip and shoulder mobility and help to re-focus the mind.
I often hear people saying that they “just aren’t flexible”. I see no reason why an increase in flexibility can’t be achieved with a little hard work. If you can’t touch your toes, how are you expecting to bend down to the block for a race start? Don’t give in because things are hard. If you can last 2 hours in the pool, I’m pretty sure you can last a further 10minutes on land to help improve what you already do in the pool!
Finally, don’t just stick to the areas you are good at. If you have an area of weakness, spend some time improving this. However uncomfortable it may be, push yourself to be better.
The Benefits of Stretching: October 2nd, 2017 by Kathryn Johnstone