When I did my first Yoga and Pilates classes, I looked around the room. We would sit on the floor with our legs straight out in front of us, and many of the girls could bend down and touch their fingers to their toes. Some could even grab their feet. I could barely get down to my ankles. I felt completely un-flexible.
I also found that after a lot of my regular workouts I would have achy muscles. I felt tired and not fully worked out even though I had just spent 90 minutes at the gym. I wondered if it was genetic or something else entirely.
I eventually discovered the reason was simple: I wasn’t stretching enough before, during or after my workouts.
The benefits of stretching are no secret. In fact, they’ve been listed on tons of health blogs, articles and websites. In case you missed these, the three reasons why it is so good to stretch are:
1. It improves flexibility.
2. It helps to prevent injury.
3. It aids in muscle recovery.
What Stretching Does For Me
A few weeks ago I decided that I HAD to implement stretching into my daily workouts. I start by walking/jogging on the treadmill for 5 minutes to warm up my muscles. I hop off and do a series of stretches for my legs, back and arms. Then I hop back on and finish my run.
After my cardio, I do a series of other stretches for about 10 additional minutes. I also have a new best friend, called a foam roller. Foam rollers are great for a lot of things but primarily what they do is help with tissue massage. Rolling your muscles against the firm foam cylinder breaks down soft tissue and scar tissue, while increasing circulation and blood flow.
Doing foam rolling also helps with flexibility and muscle movement.
I use the foam roller after most of my workouts and have even bought one to use at home on the days my muscles feel tight.
Because I do cross training 5 days a week on average, I’ve started doing some additional stretches after this as well. I notice that my muscles feel better overall and aren’t achy. In addition to this I’m more flexible and able to work out better the next day.
I recommend that anyone who is trying to get in shape, lose weight or just get a regular exercise routine in, use stretching as a tool to do this. Below are some different links to sites with great routines. The Nike Training Club iPhone app also has a good 15 minute stretch workout that I love.
Some Good Stretches
Here are some helpful links:
1. This quickly takes you through some easy stretches you can do on your own: Stretching Exercises: Basic Stretch Routine
2. This is a great one from Women’s Health to start your workout: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/jumping-jacks?workout=19236
3. For spinal flexibility, I highly recommend this one: http://www.healthyforlifeclinic.com/stretches.htm
Even if you are on a tight schedule or don’t have a lot of time to work out, doing these stretches for at least a few minutes before, during or after your exercise will give you a ton of benefits.
Good luck and here’s to a better, more flexible body!