I have tended to neglect stretching over the years, or rather, I’d sort of do some pathetic attempt at a static stretch at the end of races because everyone else there was doing so, or at the end of a club training session just so that I did not feel like the odd one out. The problem for me was that stretching does not have a huge amount of convincing evidence to support it and I tend to need convincing with quality evidence in order for something to form part of my ongoing plan and daily training ritual.
Last year, I was introduced to dynamic stretching though and I never looked back. Dynamic stretching has been great for me. I seem to recover better and feel more capable the following day. Static stretching is a stretch that requires you to use momentum of your body that you have when you stretch. You do not exceed the usual stretch ability and listen to your body, but you move gently and thoroughly with the stretch instead of just holding the stretch in a static fashion.
I do a little bit as part of my warm-up for events and longer or faster training runs, but most importantly, I do it really thoroughly and diligently later in my day, not just post-run, but at any stage in my day when I have time. It eases my muscles and adds mobility as well as stopping the performance impairing results of stiff muscles not being as mobile when I run the next day.
Not everything is for everyone, I know that, and my job here is not that of a physic, so go and check it out for yourself and do your own research on the best way to incorporate stretching into your running. I have friends and running peers who swear by yoga for advancing mobility and stretching, and other friends who swear by not stretching at all, citing that it does little good for them or that it has even injured them in the past.
If you do any kind of stretching though, I believe I can help you derive the maximum benefit from it. I’ll explain more in a moment…
This past week was a rest week for me in relative terms. Relative to the upcoming couple of week’s anyway. My long run was one whereby I was upping my pace slightly, but the distance was far less than in previous weeks. Here is how my week training schedule looked and I have linked to a couple of my runs for those of you wishing to take a look:
Mon 4M (35 mins) easy (8m45s/mile)
Tue 1M jog, then 3 x 2M (or 12 mins) fast, with 400m (or 2-min) jog recoveries, then 1M jog
Wed 9M (75 mins) slow (8m20s/mile)
Thu 6M of 1M jog, then 4M (28 mins – 7m/mile) brisk, then 1M jog
Sat 3M (25 mins) easy (8m20s/mile)
Sun Half-marathon Aim for sub-1:30 (15M inc warm up and cool down)
45 miles in total, and my weekly mileage will not be that low again until I taper prior to London marathon in a few weeks time.
The Tuesday 2 mile efforts session used to be my least favourite session to actually do. However, it is a session that I benefit hugely from. For my Sunday long run of half marathon distance, I also did a 3 lap out and back shuttle run. I did this simply to counter the influence of the wind on this shortish long run, and also to give myself a bit of mental conditioning. I was running faster than usual and dislike laps; I prefer changing scenery and stuff to look at usually. However, this gave me an opportunity to be up against some further challenge. The wind prevented my goal time, but my effort levels and heart rate were all in the right place and I feel great as a result of last week’s training.
One thing I have not really mentioned since I overhauled my training, diet and approach at the end of last year, was the incorporation of a daily dynamic stretching routine. All the muscles in my legs get used within the routine I do. I do it daily, even on rest days, though I sometimes neglect to do it following my weekly long run; mainly because I cannot be physically bothered or because Sundays I want to spend as much time as possible with my family, and stretching when my kids are around turns Daddy into a climbing frame.
I have written here and on my main hypnosis blog often about the power, relevance and usefulness of the idea-motor response. This is whereby our imagination, when actively engaged, can influence and effect our physiology. It made sense to me then, that if we use the ideo-motor response in so many other applications of self-hypnosis, cognitive sports psychology and in my therapy rooms with clients, it would make sense to use it when I was doing my dynamic stretching routine each day. Heck, I may as well aid the process than simply thinking about what I’m going to be doing next or something else banal, for example. I have found that it has advanced the benefit I have had from the stretching routine.
Simply follow these steps.
Step One: Induce hypnosis.
You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my ‘Science of self-hypnosis’ book, use the free audio at my main hypnosis website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.
Step Two: Tell yourself that when you open your eyes, you remain deeply hypnotised.
Then open your eyes, and maintain your good, receptive hypnotic mindset, and retain your focus while you then go through whatever stretching routine you do.
As each muscle is stretched, imagine the muscle smoothing out, strengthening, becoming more supple. Imagine a colour of health flowing along the muscle, or a feeling of well-being flowing through it.
Imagine you are becoming more mobile. Imagine your muscles are becoming more healthy and comfortable as you stretch them. Believe it while you do it.
Run through your entire stretching routine, continuing to imagine the stretch being more effective, imagining the muscles benefiting more, stretching appropriately, safely and healthily further. Once your stretching routine has finished, move on to the next step.
Step Three: When you finish doing all your stretches, sit back down and close your eyes.
Spend just a few brief moments imagining your leg muscles (and any other muscles) being more supple, more mobile and feeling energised, healthy and wonderful. Imagine a colour of healthiness flowing through them.
Affirm something to yourself as you imagine this positive imagery, something along the lines of:
“I am more flexible”
“My legs have better mobility”
“My legs are more supple”
“I am recovering faster”
Say it to yourself in a way that you find to be undeniably convincing. That is, really believe it to be the truth as you say it. Invest your belief in the process. Then move on to the next step.
Step Four: Imagine yourself out on your next scheduled run. Notice how comfortable, flexible and mobile you are. Notice the difference and the benefit you have gained from what you have just done. Once you have run through that, created positive expectancy and mentally rehearsed the benefits in your imagination, move on to the final step.
Step Five: If you follow the process in my science of self-hypnosis book or hypnosis for running book, then count yourself out of hypnosis from one through to five and open your eyes. Otherwise, open your eyes, wiggle your fingers and toes, take a couple of deeper, breaths and reorient yourself with your immediate environment.
The more you practice, the more you’ll simply be able to imagine the stretches being more effective and can use less of a formal hypnosis session to do this with.
Enjoy that, practice it, and I’ll be back soon.