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When should I stretch?

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By Brendon Smith, Osteopath

Summertime is often a time of year where people spend more time being outside and active. When introducing a new activity, or starting up an activity that you set aside during the winter months, it’s important to start slow in order to avoid injury. Regardless of your age, a short warm up is beneficial to prepare muscles and joints for activity. People often ask what type of stretches they should do before starting an activity. 

When muscles are cold, such as first thing in the morning or at the start of a run, it’s important to give them ample time to warm up. Take the first 5 or 10 minutes of your activity as a slow, gradual warm up, giving your muscles ample time to prepare for a more rigorous or brisk pace. This is a great point to introduce some gentle stretching, as it will be less of a shock to the otherwise cold, unprepared tissues. When one jumps right into a brisk activity, there is more risk of strains and sprains. 

A progressive cool down at the end of your activity is also helpful for reducing post exercise discomfort. Taking the last 10 minutes at a slower pace allows your body to rid accumulated lactic acid build up, a byproduct of activity that, if not worked out, may result in some post-activity discomfort. After your cool down is the best time for stretching. Take your time to gently sink into your stretch, but only to a comfortable point. It’s more productive to go into a gentle stretch and hold it for longer (45-90 seconds) than a deep, abrupt stretch, which has the potential to damage or overstretch your muscles.

Lynn Redmond