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The Benefit of Stretching

Ever wonder what does stretching do and why is it important? Do you stretch before working out? Health experts recommend stretching each major muscle group at least twice a week for 60 seconds. If you exercise regularly, you should do it more often. Stretching helps you stay flexible and prevent injuries. It also prepares your muscles for a challenging workout. By stretching before working out, you’ll move better and relax tense muscles.

What Happens When You Stretch Your Muscles?

Stretching is important for everyone, especially for athletes, runners, and bodybuilders. This basic activity prepares your muscles and joints for the strain that is about to come. It increases your flexibility and strength, improves circulation, and lowers the risk of injury. Regular stretching is just as important as exercise.

This training method involves stretching a specific muscle or tendon in order to increase its flexibility and range of motion. It’s also a good way to relieve cramps and back pain. When practiced regularly, it can help you achieve comfortable muscle tone and improve joint mobility. Compared to other forms of exercise, stretching is a natural activity that occurs instinctively.

Research indicates that stretching exercises can improve athletic performance, relieve muscle stiffness, and increase length and/or flexibility of muscle tissue. They may also increase your range of motion after a single bout of stretching, which helps prevent overuse or acute sports injuries. Many runners claim that stretching reduces soreness and muscle tears.

The Benefits of Stretching For Runners

Running may seem fairly simple, but it’s actually very complex. This sport requires upper body strength and back support as well as cardiovascular endurance and leg strength. Running long distances can put strain on your muscles and cause injuries. Over time, some muscles can become stronger and less flexible. Regular stretching can help prevent and reduce muscle pain, soreness, and loss of flexibility.

The benefits for runners are huge. This activity improves physical performance and keeps you safe. It also reduces muscular tension, increases coordination, and decreases your risk of lower back pain. Other key benefits include:

  • Improved balance
  • Improved circulation
  • Increased neuromuscular coordination
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Improved range of motion
  • Greater flexibility
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles
  • Assists in correct posture
  • Relaxes tense muscles
  • Relieves stress
  • Alleviates back pain
  • Prepares the muscles for use
  • Helps the muscles stay limber after a workout
  • Helps prevents delayed onset muscle soreness
  • Increases mobility

Stretching before and after exercise will improve your running performance. This activity should be a key part of your routine, regardless of how fast you run or how fit you are. Stretching after a run helps pull out and lengthen the muscles that have been used during training. Stretching before running helps warm your muscles and get them ready for exercise.

Types of Stretching

There are many stretching techniques, and each has unique benefits. Based on your goals and fitness level, you can try the following:

  • Dynamic
  • Static active
  • Static passive
  • Neuromuscular
  • Neurodynamic
  • Self-myofascial release
  • Active isolated
  • Isometric
  • Ballistic
  • Resistance

Some stretching techniques improve soft tissue extensibility and neural muscular control, while others correct muscle imbalances and postural distortions. Recent studies have found that dynamic stretching is more effective than static stretching. Runners who perform dynamic stretches before a race experience fewer muscle tears and pulls. Examples of dynamic stretches include leg swings, side lunges, knee raises, mountain climbers, and arm swings. This form of stretching involves dynamic movements with the full range of motion through the joint.

Static stretching is beneficial too. This training method involves stretching your muscles while the body is at rest. For example, you can try standing wall stretches, ball stretches, chest stretches, side bends, and calf stretches. While dynamic stretching focuses on challenging and repetitive moves, static stretching is all about relaxing the body part being stretched.

In general, static stretching is recommended post-run, while dynamic stretching works best pre-run. For instance, athletes can perform walking lunges, inchworms, reverse lunges, high knees, and butt kicks before running. As soon as you’re done training, do static stretches such as the pigeon, the quad stretch, or the frog stretch. Other moves recommended to runners include standing calf stretches, kneeling hip flexor and hamstring stretches, wall push-ups, and heel-to-buttock stretches.

A five-minute jog is not enough to prepare you for running. If you want to stay safe and achieve your fullest potential, stretch your muscles properly. Generally, all types of stretching can enhance your performance and prevent injuries. The key is to try different exercises so you can figure out what works best for you.


Guide to Teaching Players to Bat in Tee Ball

Tee Ball is a game relatively new to many Australians where Cricket is “King” in summer sports. It is, however, a sport that is becoming more popular in schools because every player bats and fields. Hitting the ball off a tee is somewhat easier than hitting one bowled. Being able to hit the ball means the player gets more involved in the game and is more successful.

This article developed out of experienced gained in creating a league in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane with players and parents who had no experience of Baseball/Softball.

The very first decision to make is what size bat to use. The team coach should ensure the player has a bat smaller enough to be swung easily.

The next is the grip. Note these points:

• The hands should always be together with little or no gap between them.
• For a right hander, the left hand is on the bottom and the right hand on top. The reverse is true for a left hander.
• The bat is held vertically well back behind the player’s head
• The player must use his/her fingers not the palms to hold the bat.

Often players have difficulty controlling even the smallest bat. Here are some suggestions to help overcome this problem

1. Shorten the grip I. e. move the player’s hands up the bat towards the middle of the bat. Their hands must remain together.

2. Don’t let the batter have practice swings. (What happens is the bat gets lower and lower. So when they swing,they hit the tee).

3. Now let them line the ball up; bring the bat back as far as possible in an arc until the bat is vertical and then swing the bat down and flat through the ball.

The next issue is the stance. Here are some ideas on this.

1. Make sure the head and eyes are pointing down at the ball.

2. The feet should be apart (about shoulder width) with the body weight evenly distributed on both feet.

3. If the player steps to swing, it should be a short step only with the front foot. A large step will result in a swing under the ball at the rubber on the tee or the bottom of the ball pushing it up into the air for a simple catch.

4. The front foot should be placed just behind the tee* to allow the ball to be hit in front of the body. This allows the hips to open up giving more power.

5. Both feet should form a line parallel to the edge of the batter’s box.

6. A follow through is essential.

7. Make sure the player practises dropping rather than throwing the bat after contact with the ball. (Throwing the bat is often an automatic out).

8. Once the ball is hit, the batter must run immediately in a straight line just outside the line to first base. He/she must not watch the ball.

The swing of the bat is the next important issue. Here is what to emphasise to your players.

1. Before the swing begins, the bat should be held as far back behind the player’s as is comfortable.

2. Hands held together on the bat with the bat vertical.

3. The swing, on nearing the ball, must be horizontal (flat) and travel through the ball.

4. The eyes must be on the ball all through the swing

*At different times of the game, the coach will want the player to hit the ball to a specific area of the diamond to help the batter get on base or to progress the runner. There are two specific areas where the coach might want the player to hit the ball.

1. Hitting to the area between second and third base:

For right hander, the batter stands further back in the batter’s box than suggested above. This means the ball is hit late in the swing at an angle pushing the ball towards that side of the diamond. This will give the batter a better chance to reach first base.

2. Hitting to the area between first and second base:

For a right hander, the batter stands towards the front of the box, just ahead of the tee, so that the ball is hit earlier in the swing sending the ball towards that area. This will help advance runners on second and third base and perhaps a runner on first base if the ball is hit into a gap.

For a left hander, the reverse is true. The players need to practise these two techniques.

Finally, it is important to note some common errors players make batting. They are:

• Trying to hit too hard. This often means the bat does not make sweet contact with the ball as the player often overstrides hitting the ball low and skying it for a catch.
• The second is looking up to see where the ball is going before actually finishing the swing.
• Another is the tendency to begin running before finishing the swing in an effort to get on base.

What each of these scenarios do is to prevent good, firm contact with the ball. As in all ball games, it is important to remember and stress “The eyes have it”.


Solutions For Improve Your Running

How can you improve your running?

Knowing the answer to the 3 most common questions will help improve your running today.

How often should I run
How far should I run
How hard should I run

How often should I run?

At the very beginning, this was a tough question for me to answer. I had tried to get into running on several occasions previously. What I found was that I lost my motivation to get out there after a few runs or a week. So the best advice I can give you on this question is to start smaller and build up. Set a schedule that you know you can meet. If that means getting out 3 times a week then go for it, if you have the time and can plan more all the better. You will find that if you have a plan ahead of time and meet that plan, you will build confidence and will be more likely to keep at it.

For me, I found that the minimum I could do and still see the small gains I was hoping for was to run 3 times a week. Less than that and I was not consistently seeing improvements. Not seeing any improvement led to disappointment, and ultimately giving up on the process. Each time I finished a planned workout no matter how far or how slow, it built my confidence and helped me to get out the door on my next run.

How far should I run?

If you are just beginning this question is natural. However I would recommend that for the first few weeks, at least, you change the question around. Rather than worrying about how far you should run, focus instead on how long you should run. For me, I was able to build confidence knowing that getting out there for 20 minutes was something I could do 3 times a week. In my previous attempts, I would say I am going to run 3 miles, and I would struggle to get the mileage. Or the goal would end up taking far longer than I had planned. In both cases, the result is you will not feel as though you are improving your running, just the opposite I was developing a negative thought.

Start with a plan that has you focused on a time frame rather than a specific distance. With each run you will acclimate your body to the demands of running. As your body starts to adapt to the demands you place on it, you will see improvements. Maybe your first day out you can cover 1.25 miles in 20 minutes. If you stick to your plan, you will start to see gains and maybe after a week, you can cover 1.35 miles in the same time frame. Regardless of how big or how little the improvement is… CELEBRATE it. That is a success and you worked hard to earn that success.

The biggest recommendation I can give as newbie runner is to finish the workouts you start. If you find that the duration you have set for yourself is too much, shorten the workout rather than continually stopping early. It is a small change, but you will find that you build more confidence in meeting a goal or plan, than stopping short or making it up as you go.

How hard should I run?

I will be very honest with you while I learned the answer to this question for myself early on; it took me nearly 2 months to fully embrace.

It doesn’t matter!

Almost every run will seem like hard run to a newbie.

Most of us will not be able to run very far without huffing and puffing or feeling their legs ache. This is completely natural and expected. Your body is simply not accustomed to the motions and demands of running. This may occur after ¼ of a mile or after 10 steps. Just remind yourself, that this is only a starting point.

In my first week, I focused on jogging short distances (60 seconds) at as slow a pace as I could without actually walking. Then I walked for 120 seconds, and then I repeated the process. The actual times you choose will depend largely on how fit or conditioned you are when you begin your own journey. I know runners who started at as low as 15 strides of running and then walking. They key is to keep moving and make sure the walking portions are being done at a fairly brisk pace.

Here’s a secret… your heart doesn’t know if your running or walking. When you work harder than normal it is going to beat faster and pump more blood through your system and thereby improve your endurance. You just need to be active. All the while it is becoming more efficient and better at its job and therefore, you can ask more and more from it.

A good rule of thumb to improve your running is to use the 80/20 rule. 80{2281a464b0db6d821f967ee4c31842ef432e8153e986fd396ff458e4f3c84c77} of your running should be at LOW intensity. Only 20{2281a464b0db6d821f967ee4c31842ef432e8153e986fd396ff458e4f3c84c77} of all your running in a week should be at a moderate or high intensity. Don’t believe me, check out some of the elite runners schedules. They follow the 80/20 rule.


If you start with small achievable goals and then build upon those small successes early on, you will be more likely to stick with your plan and continue to improve your running.

The takeaways for a new runner are simple.

  • Commit to a plan that is reasonable and achievable.
  • Focus on a timeframe rather than a distance at the beginning
  • Finish your workouts
  • Celebrate your successes no matter how small
  • Find a walk/run interval that fits your current level of fitness.
  • Believe that you are getting better each time out. You may not see it on your watch, but your body is improving and becoming more efficient.

Ways to Rediscover Your Love of Running

You laid out the perfect plan to achieve your goals and everything was progressing according to your plan. You could see the physical improvements, and you were developing a mental toughness and mindset that nothing was going to get in your way. Until “it” happened…

“It” comes in many forms and when you least expect it – disguised as a family crisis, work demands, or a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. Clearly it’s not something you expected to encounter, but it derails progress toward your intended goal. Although it may be disappointing to backtrack to re-gain fitness, re-lose weight, or simply gut out a less-than-ideal situation to get through your intended race, there is comfort in knowing that: “I did it before, so I can do it again!” While that may not be the most comforting thought, sometimes it’s enough to get you through the moment (e.g. workout, training plan, or even the race) – and that’s all you need.

Let me share with you some experiences and see if you can place yourself any of these scenarios. I’d been putting off surgery for a nagging shoulder injury, but finally had it done in 2012 – after one of the best running years I’d had in quite some time. I’d been fit, lean, and just finished a new ultramarathon distance which was a huge personal triumph. After the race, I had the surgery and couldn’t run a step for three months. That major setback in my training cost me many more months to regain the same level of fitness prior to the surgery. As it turns out, I ran the same race again in 2014 and finished faster! I was burnt out by the end of the 2014 running season. I’d worked hard to regain that fitness, but lost my joy for running in the process. For most of 2015, I spent my time hiking, riding my bicycle, or doing many other activities – but I thought that my running days might be in my past. After nearly a year away, I’m back to running and enjoying it as much as ever. My fitness and weight have both declined in the past year, but at least I’ve recaptured the joy in my running and can work toward improving both. And speaking of weight, with the inevitable march of time, my weight seems to be an ongoing (losing) battle. It’s tougher and tougher just to maintain my weight, so I accept that I need to adjust to a new “normal” and work with what life provides. Being at a less than ideal weight is not going to stop me from getting out and doing the things I love.

From the stories I’ve shared about my own challenges, I hope you take away two important messages:

1) every woman you know is working on overcoming some obstacle between her and her goals – so you aren’t alone

2) know that whatever challenge you are facing can be overcome if you don’t quit trying!

Let’s face facts; most of us are weekend warriors who don’t have the luxury of the singular pursuit of our personal goals, and we need to juggle a lot of balls while we are working through our plan to achieve great pursuits – but that makes the achievement that much sweeter. Accept that your plans will probably need to change, and understand that is part of your journey. Most importantly: believe in yourself and your ability to overcome those obstacles to achieve your goals. And never, never, never give up in the pursuit of your own greatness!