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Don’t skip the stretch!

Stretching can be a pain, but skip it, and you’ll be in for even less of a treat.  We all know that you should stretch after a good warm up session, but what about after? The post workout or run stretch is key for a few reason, so make sure that you take a few minutes to stretch and you can even encourage your kids to do so by joining them. In the long run, those extra 5-10 minutes can save you from overuse injuries. Here’s what actually happens when you don’t take the time to stretch:

Step 1: Your muscles contract.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but without stretching, your muscles begin to contract and tighten after a long workout.

Step 2: Lactic acid builds up.
The onslaught of lactic acid is every gym-goer’s nightmare. Even if you never knew what it was called, we bet you know exactly how it feels. That burning sensation in your muscles is uncomfortable and unfortunately common for many runners. Thankfully, the accumulation of lactic acid isn’t permanent. With proper stretching, it can actually be flushed out of the body relatively quickly.

Step 3: Tissues become “dense.”
When you skip a stretch after your run, the tissue remains in the position in which you left it. It can ultimately be very tight and dense, thanks to a buildup of by-products that weren’t removed post-exercise.

Step 4: Muscles may become imbalanced.
Similar to the initial effect, the contracted muscles will remain in their shortened state if not sufficiently stretched. Certain movements within workouts keep specific muscles in a contracted state while others are kept in a lengthened position. This can result in muscle imbalances over time. This can increase the wear and tear on your joints and decrease your range of motion due to the reduced extensibility, making future injuries more likely.

Step 5: Minor spasms occur.
If you’ve never experienced a back spasm before, lucky you! Muscles in the lower back begin to spasm after a hard run if they’re not adequately stretched out afterward. Although this doesn’t occur with all runners, it can be a very painful reaction to the muscle shortening that occurs after a run.