You’ve managed to make time in your busy schedule for a workout session, but even so, you’re running late. In order to make up time, you’ve decided to skip over your stretching exercises and skip to the meat of the workout. After all, stretching is just a small part of the warm up anyway, right?
We say…Wrong! Skipping over the stretching part of your warm up exercises or even during your cool down is not only a bad habit to start, but could also be dangerous to your body and lead to injury. Stretching is a very important part of your work out routine, whether you’re walking or preparing to lift weights. In this article, we’ll take a look at why stretching is such an important part of your workout routine and why you should always stretch both before and after a workout.
Why Stretching is Good For You
There are a whole host of reasons that stretching is good for you. Muscles that are tired are have not be in use are usually tight and constricted. Stretching helps keep the muscles flexible, not just for work out routines, but for everyday tasks. Stretching promotes good posture, helps protect your joints, and leaves you feeling relaxed and free of tension. In fact, stretching has so much going for it that even those that stretch on days that they do not work out can reap the benefits.
However, overdoing it can be just as harmful as not stretching at all. Personal trainers stress that stretching should never be painful! Every body is different so don’t judge yourself against the person stretching next to you. If you’ve stretched to the point of pain, back off a little and hold the new position for twenty seconds or more.
Stretching During Warm Up
It is important to remember that stretching is an important part of the warm up, but it is not all there is to warming up! Recently, personal trainers have started recommending that a ten minute warm up period should precede any stretching. This is because the muscles shouldn’t be stretched while they are still “cold,” or before any physical activity has taken place. The warm up period of movement helps encourage the blood to flow to the muscles, sonovial fluid to “grease” up the joints, and get the heart rate increasing. Stretching before the body has had time to warm up a little can cause strains or tears in the muscles, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid by stretching in the first place!
Stretching During Cool Down
Personal trainers stress that just like during the warm up period, stretching is integral to the cool down period. All of the blood that is pumping through the muscles during the work out can pool there if the muscles are not stretched; stretching encourages the blood to return to the body’s organs. A good stretch after a work out can also discourage lactic acid from building up in the muscles, which can help promote the feeling of soreness the next day. Most importantly, stretching helps relax the body and relieve tension, which means that you’re likely to feel much better after your work out than when you started!