Stretching is one of the most important parts of the exercise and is, too often, skipped over or not given enough attention, as an essential part of your workout routine. Make time for stretching! Go to a Pilates or Yoga class! Your body will love it! Incorporate it into your routine.
There are physical and mental benefits to stretching, too. It’s not just good for your body, but good for your mind. It’s important to spend time, before your workout and, most importantly, after stretching out those muscles.
They have been working very hard for you, and need some post-workout. If you don’t stretch your muscles after a workout, you will be more stiff and sore the next day and, that is only one of the benefits of stretching for your body. There are many more, from improving your posture to increase your flexibility.
Do you Really Need to Stretch Before You Workout?
Yes and no. It depends on how warm your muscles are and what your level of activity has been during the day. What exercise are you planning to do? For example, if it’s a hot day and you’re heading to the gym pool for a swim – well, your body is probably warm enough, and, aside from limbering up a little, and stretching your arms, and shoulders, you’ll probably be fine.
Consider another scenario- you’ve been at your desk all day and you’re going to go for a run, after driving home. Your body has not been very active, so stretching will help to warm your muscles up. It increases blood circulation and helps to lengthen your muscles too, so they will be able to work, more efficiently for you during your run.
Avoiding Injury and Strains
If your joints are too stiff, or, you are not limber enough, you can easily strain your muscles, and hurt yourself. Professional athletes, in many fields, spend extra time warming up before competing and so should you.
In tennis matches, for example, before the match begins, there is a short warm up. If you are doing any type of exercise, that is going to place your body under strain, you need to stretch carefully beforehand.
By stretching your muscles, and tendons, during your warm-up, you increase your blood flow to your muscles, allowing more nutrients and energy to be readily available. You also have a better range of motion, when you are exercising, and are less likely to injure yourself.
Stretching can improve your posture. We tend to work at computers, sit at desks for long periods, and, drive cars to work. Generally, we are a lot less physical activity, than previous generations. What does this mean for our posture and health? Well, we tend to suffer from a lot of lifestyle-related injuries.
These may be related to our jobs or lack of fitness – back problems, neck strains, and poor posture are very common. Stretching can help ease the tension in our over-used muscles and help lengthen, and strengthen, underused muscles.
We expect our bodies to do a lot for us, in daily life, alone, and, stretching, especially after exercise, will help our muscles relax. By stretching, especially after exercise, you can help prevent your muscles from shortening and help prevent poor posture.
The Mind-Body Connection
Modern life places a lot of pressure on us, both physically and mentally. By stretching out our bodies, after a workout or in a class like Yoga, it helps us to destress. Stretching helps us with both physical, and mental, relaxation.
Modern life pressures, and for many people who have high pressure jobs, stretching can be very beneficial. We expend a lot of mental energy every day and our bodies store tension. By exercising and stretching, we help our mind and body to literally unwind.
Stretching After Your Workout
You don’t need special equipment, but, you do need some space. In busy gyms, there may be a dedicated stretching area, where there may be mats you can use. If stretching in front of people is not something you feel comfortable doing, check to see if there are classes, in the studios, and, remember to check to see when the next class begins.
If they are free, grab a yoga mat and a Pilates ring, if you’re not flexible enough to, for example, reach your toes. Some gyms may have a special piece of equipment you can use, designed to stretch particular muscle groups.
It looks a little like a cross between a cage and adult monkey bars. Hamstrings, hips, flexors, quads – a good stretch after your workout will feel great and help to, also, lower your heart rate and blood pressure.