If you lead a busy life, you may find yourself rushing between work, the gym, and home. This means that you are probably tempted to skip stretches before and after your workouts. I mean, who’s got the time, right?!
Before you race home after your workout, you should know that stretching is actually a super important part of your fitness routine! Stretching allows your muscles to recover after all that hard work and repair themselves quickly so that you can jump back into your routine ASAP. It’s an essential step to prevent injury, offset muscle soreness, and can even help you achieve results more quickly!
Trust us, taking time to stretch it out is worth the extra time in your day. We’ll give you three reasons why you should warm up and cool down after workouts – plus five moves that you can add to your stretching routine!
Why Stretching Before and After Your Workout is Important
Prevents Serious Injury
One of the most important benefits of stretching is that is prevents injury by warming up and cooling down your muscles. When you exercise, you stretch your muscles in ways that strain and tear them, which is a natural process. However, if you jump into your workout without properly warming up, you put your tense muscles at risk of overstretching in a way that causes injury. Stretching or doing warm up exercises before you work out is important to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself. Plus, it can help you feel more coordinated so that you perform better throughout the rest of your workout!
Being flexible isn’t just about impressing other people in your yoga class; it’s also an important element to reduce muscle tension and improve your form. Flexibility is the ability to move joints effectively through a complete range of motion. By training flexibility through stretching, you will lengthen and loosen your muscles and connective tissues in a way that will allow you to move more freely. This will ultimately help you to improve your posture, your performance, and your overall comfort (goodbye tight hamstrings!). The best way to increase your flexibility is – you guessed it – stretching! At the end of each workout, hold each pose for several minutes to lengthen your muscles. Focus on the parts of the body that you were training because these are the muscles that will constrict the most after your workout. Stretching will not only increase your flexibility in these areas, but it will also reduce muscle soreness afterwards – a win-win!
Reduces Stress on the Body and Mind
Did you know that stress affects the mind and the body? Stress is a normal part of our everyday life and can appear in many different forms. When you exert mental or physical energy, your body produces a stress response in which your muscles tense up and you become more alert of your surroundings. Even though this is a natural part of our bodies, it can still cause us to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Stretching is a wonderful way to tell your body to slow down and relax. It offers you a chance to unwind and give yourself a moment to incorporate calm into your busy life. Plus, you don’t need to work out to reap the benefits of stretching for stress! You can do it in the morning, at the office, or before bedtime. Try it out and feel the difference!
Stretches to Incorporate in Your Routine
Feeling ready to add some stretches to your workouts? Here are a few that will maximize the benefits and leave you feeling light and limber!
You’ve probably heard of this pose already, but do you know why it’s a favorite among yogis? Downward dog is a great way to stretch out the entire backside of your body! From your low back all the way to the arches of your feet, you will feel an intense and instantaneous release.
Learn how to do downward dog here.
Upward dog is like a downward dog, but instead of releasing the backside of the body, it stretches out the front part of the body. You will feel this stretch through your chest, abdomen, and even the front of your thighs.
Learn how to do upward dog here.
Were you able to touch your toes in gym class as a kid? Then you are already familiar with a forward fold! Forward folds stretch and lengthen the hamstrings and the claves, which can become very tight from running or cycling. You may also feel a pleasant stretch in your lower back as well.
Learn how to do a forward fold here.
Another popular stretch for P.E. class, seated twists are great for stretching the upper body and improve your range of motion. Be sure to perform this stretch on both sides to feel the full benefits.
Learn how to do a seated twist here.
Last but certainly not least, pigeon pose is one of the most intense and effective stretches. With so many variations, there aren’t many parts of your body that you can’t stretch with pigeon pose. You will likely feel this the most in your hamstrings, glutes, and hips. The more you do this pose, the better your flexibility and range of motion will be!
Learn how to do a pigeon pose here.