I’ll be honest; I used to be one of those people who rarely ever stretched before or after her training sessions. Why? I probably avoided it for the same excuses you might have: takes too long, I just want to start my workout already, what’s the point, who cares, etc. Am I right or am I right?
Unfortunately, I was ignorant. I wasn’t properly educated on the importance of stretching until now. Whenever I do a workout, I always start it with some sort of stretching and end it with stretching.
Why Should I Stretch?
Here are some benefits as to why you should be stretching:
- Prevents injury
- Enhances performance
- Improves range of motion (ROM)
- Alleviates muscle soreness
- Improves circulation
- Increases flexibility
- Improves posture
- Decreases your risk of low-back pain
- Helps reduce or manage stress
These listed benefits alone should convert you to start stretching before and after you workout – so, do it, no excuses!
What Do I Do to Stretch BEFORE I Workout?
If I’m sore from a previous workout, the first thing I’ll do is self-myofascial release (SMR), otherwise known as foam rolling. This is literally a roll of foam about 1 to 3 feet in length and about 4 to 6 inches in diameter. There are different sizes and colors out there. The different colors will indicate how hard each foam roller is. Foam rolling can be painful, but it’s worth it. When you foam roll over a sore area, you are releasing that muscle that has become knotted, which could potentially lead to further injury or pain. I highly recommend before doing any sort of SMR that you research it first. According to National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), SMR shouldn’t be used on people with varicose veins, areas of swelling, and people with diabetes, cancer, or arthritis.
After performing SMR, I begin my dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is active stretching where I use movement and momentum to stretch. Examples of dynamic stretching include: arm circles, wrist circles, elbow circles, ankle circles, walking lunges, pushups, side bends and trunk rotations, walking alternate toe touches, leg swings, etc. Ideally, if you’re performing a full body workout, you want to make sure you do a dynamic stretch of your entire body, or whichever body parts you will be training.
What Do I Do to Stretch AFTER I Workout?
After my workout (weight training and cardio), I’ll stretch again. If I need to do another round of SMR, I will, and I’ll follow that up with static stretching, which means I’ll hold my stretches for about 15 seconds each. If not, I’ll just do static stretching. I’ll repeat each stretch two or three more times. Again, if I’m doing a full body workout, I’ll be sure to stretch my entire body: triceps stretch, arms across chest, shoulder and chest, glute stretch, hamstring, standing quadriceps while bending at hip, calves, etc.
Stretching is good! I have learned to love it only because I am now educated and understand the importance of it. See you out on the mat!