Stretching has many benefits that can really help your body to stay fresh, active and feeling good.
From warming up properly to warming down, to a few stretches as you get out of the bed in the morning and go to sleep at night – stretching can pay dividends in a variety of different ways.
Whether you’re targeting your leg muscles, such as the quads, hamstrings, abductors and glutes – or upper body muscles like deltoids, biceps and pectorals – it’s the best way to work every aspect of your body.
Here are Sport360’s five stretching pointers
STRETCHING HELPS TO AVOID INJURY
Indeed, focusing on areas of your body that feel tight and need work can help reduce the risk of injury and generate greater blood flow, reducing the build up of lactate acid.
Regular stretching will also rapidly improve your flexibility and get rid of aches and niggling pains.
HOLD THE STRETCH
If you’re playing football or running a marathon, stopping for a quick stretch can really help you. Ideally you want to try and hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds – and often – a bit more.
This allows your body to ease into the movement and gives sufficient time to strengthen and lengthen a tight muscle.
Try not to bounce, wobble and avoid sudden movements of the body or you could end up tweaking or pulling a muscle.
TRY DYNAMIC STRETCHES
Essentially, this means stretching with movement – the opposite to static stretching.
Lunges, squats, step-ups, twists, kicks and jumps are all great ways to activate key core muscle groups and add a freeflowing feel to your workout.
Stretching can also help improve your balance and co-ordination.
A short burst of dynamic movements before exercise, such as a 10km run, will help to get your body moving quickly and with greater efficiency.
TAKE YOUR STRETCHING TO THE NEXT LEVEL…JOIN A YOGA/PILATES CLASS
With an improvement in your flexibility and a renewed sense of what your body can do, why not start a flexibility class such as yoga and pilates. It’s the best way to learn new exercises and routines, and at the same time, meet new people.
STRETCHING CAN ALLEVIATE A POOR POSTURE
We can all get stuck in a rut of sitting in the office, often slouching, for hours on end.
Sitting down for extended periods can cause extreme tightness in our hip flexors (known as the tightest muscle group in the body) and glutes.
In turn, lots of computer work can contribute to tired shoulders and compressed chest muscles.
Luckily, stretching is a great way to improve your range of motion and get your body moving.
Dubai resident Maria Conceicao has completed the first of her attempts to complete six Ironmen across six continents.
The charity founder – who has broken six Guinness World Records – is currently taking on the challenge to raise awareness and funds for her Maria Cristina Foundation in Bangladesh, which supports nearly 200 children from the slums of Dhaka.
Ironmen are known to be among the most challenging endurance races in the world, pushing the body to the extreme with a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run.
Athletes spend years conditioning their bodies to complete only one Ironman, let alone six in quick succession. Remarkably, Maria’s successful finish in South Africa last week was her first ever.
Speaking to Sport360 after returning from Johannesburg, Maria said: “It was extremely tough. I was so nervous at the start as I really didn’t know if I could make it.”
“Ironman have cut off times throughout the race and they are really strict, if you don’t make the time you are out.”
“For example on the swim you have 2hours 20 minutes to swim the 3.8km, I know that in normal conditions I can make it ok but I’m still not a strong swimmer so if its a little bit rough it really slows me down, this race was a little bit choppy but i made it ok.
“Also with the bike, I am not strong as I’m relatively new to cycling so have limited strength and confidence on a bike.”
For Maria, the lengths that she goes to preparing for such a physical challenge, is nothing compared to the daily struggles of the Dhaka children that she supports and is helping to put through education.
“I am always seeking challenges that are a bit different. If I keep doing the same type of challenges people can get bored and the only reason I do them is to keep people’s attention and to raise funds for the children’s education,” she said.
“Quite often people don’t know the story from the beginning so if they see me doing another challenge running marathons they assume that I am some gifted runner and that it comes easy for me. But this is definitely not the case. I start from zero every time and basically have to re-invent myself.
“When I decided to summit Mount Everest I had no experience in mountain climbing and it took me a year of intense and extreme training to get there. The same with my marathons and ultras and the same with my English channel swim.
“I learnt to swim in 2015 and triathlons seemed like a great progression from running after that and to try to keep the same theme of competing on all continents this is the perfect challenge for me at the moment.”
While many would wince at the idea of running a marathon, Conceicao has ran over 50 so far. In 2015, she completed seven marathons in seven continents over 11 days, raising over Dhs275,000 for the charity. She could have achieved this in seven days but bad weather forced her plane to divert 20 minutes from landing in Antarctica.
Her next race will be in Texas on April 22, before flying to Taiwan, Australia and the Canary Islands. She will finish in Brazil on May 28.
Maria Conceicao has recently released an autobiography, which charts the story of the Maria Cristina Foundation. All proceeds from the book will go towards the children’s education in Dhaka.
The UAE temperature has risen significantly over the past week or too, banishing memories of the rain we had in February and March.
Our bodies take time to adjust to exercising in hot temperatures and with the peak summer about to hit home over the coming weeks, Sport360’s five simple steps will help you combat training in the sun.
Simply, you want to avoid heat exhaustion at all costs and train as efficiently and effectively as you can.
Check out our bitesize pieces of advice:
Yes, this is the most obvious pointer.
But our bodies contain around 50 to 60 per cent of water and it’s important to sustain this amount at all times – especially during exercise.
Drink frequently before, throughout and after physical activity.
If you’re running, carry a drink with you or take some loose change so you can stop off and buy some liquids.
DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH
There’s a danger that taking too many fluids onboard can cause you to overhydrate.
Technically speaking, it can lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium) – which is when you are losing a lot of sweat and drinking too much water.
This causes an imbalance in the body and completely throws off the happy medium between sodium and water in your bloodstream.
The option to combat this is to try and build energy boosters into your workout activity.
This will help increase your electrolyte intake and decrease the likelihood of your sodium levels being affected.
WORKOUT IN LIGHT COLOURED CLOTHING
Light coloured clothing reflects the heat and can help keep you cooler for longer, rather than dark coloured workout kit which quickly absorbs the heat.
Loose-fitted clothing will help reduce sweat too, that said, compression gear can actually help stop the onset of muscle soreness and fatigue.
There’s no real right or wrong here, but it’s worth bearing these options in mind.
AVOID EXERCISING IN PEAK SUN
The midday and early afternoon sun in the UAE is brutal, especially in the height of the summer.
Temperatures eclipse 40 degrees comfortably and exercising in such conditions quickly leads to fatigue, dizziness, muscle soreness and dehydration.
Alternatively, try and get outside early in the morning or exercise in the evenings instead – where the temperatures are still hot, but slightly more bearable.
KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT A DAY AND MOVE INSIDE
The key thing is to listen to your body.
If you’re struggling towards the backend of a session, don’t be afraid to stop, finish up and hydrate. There’s no point carrying on and risking further injury if your body isn’t feeling up to it.
You have to weigh up the risk but overdoing it in the heat could affect your training over the coming days and weeks.