I’ve mentioned the importance of pre- and post-workout stretching on my instagram several times, and I mentioned its’ importance in my Pre-Workout Routine post. So I figured it was time to write a post about it!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I reeeally dislike stretching. I laugh at myself when I say that only because, as a former cheerleader, flexibility and stretching played a huge part in how well I performed. How flexible you were was everything.
But when I stopped cheering and didn’t spend every day sitting in the straddle position or in the splits, my flexibility basically vanished. Gone. Donzo. Buh-bye.
Despite my disagreement with it, I’ve learned, through becoming a certified personal trainer as well as through my own experience, that stretching plays a vital role in our physical abilities. There are even studies that prove its’ influence on our mental health.
Needless to say…stretching=important.
Often times, people forget to stretch. If you think about it, stretching can be so easily overlooked because there is no evident result like that of weight lifting or cardio. Stretching doesn’t make your waist smaller or your legs leaner or give you a six pack, but it does assist in developing healthier muscle function. And proper muscle function is what produces those physical effects that everyone wants to see (smaller waist, leaner legs, six pack, etc.).
Probably the most obvious benefit that stretching gives us is increased flexibility and a larger range of motion. Overtime our muscles naturally become tighter and our range of motion can significantly decrease if we don’t take actions to reverse the effect. An absence of flexibility in the body can cause your everyday movements to become slower, more difficult, and sometimes even painful depending on how little flexibility you actually have.
Also, with so many people having jobs and responsibilities that require sitting at a desk or in front of a computer (i.e. me because I’m in front of my computer ALL the time), the vast majority of that population is going to have improper posture. It is important to stretch in order to correct and relieve that muscle tension.
There is a significant decrease in potential for exercise related injuries due to stretching as well. By loosening the muscles and assisting in warming them up, our workouts become more effective and less strenuous on the body!
Stretching is also so great in reducing muscle soreness because it increases the amount of blood and nutrients that is supplied to the muscles. Delayed onset muscle soreness is a REAL thing, people. And it is not comfortable by any means. So when you stretch while you’re sore, it releases some of the tension built up tension in your muscles from your previous workout.
Spoiler alter: this doesn’t feel pleasant at all, but SO necessary. While the actual act of stretching might feel painful, afterwards your muscles won’t feel so tight and you won’t want to literally die (as much) every time you have to sit down or basically move at all.
Sometimes we just need a mental break from everyday stresses because life can get overwhelming. Not only does stress effect us mentally, but physically, stress can cause tenseness of muscle fibers. Tense muscle fibers can feel a lot like being sore. An example commonly used is when people with high stress jobs have consistent neck pain.
Stretching for the purposes of taking a mental break and de-stressing can be very helpful. It calms the mind and lets your body recharge.
Personally, I couldn’t just sit and stretch for long periods of time by myself on account of the fact that I have the attention span of a squirrel. But I do find stretching-based actives such as yoga and pilates to be very helpful. You get to take a little break from reality and get a good workout/stretching sesh in at the same time!
No matter how many different ways I say that stretching is good for you, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t stretch properly and at the right time. A lot of times it is said that we should be stretching right before working out, however this can actually do more harm than good.
Right when we get the gym, our muscles aren’t warm yet; we haven’t gotten any additional blood flowing and our muscles are still at a resting state. Stretching at this muscular state doesn’t really warm up the muscles at all and you won’t get a quality stretch because our muscles are too tight!
So essentially, your muscles should be nice and warm before you begin stretching. At the very least, warm up on the treadmill or elliptical just to get your blood pumping.
I recommend stretching during your workout as well! In between sets, hold a 20-30 second stretch for whatever muscle group you’re working at that moment. Equally as important, stretch after your cool down too for a faster muscular recovery time.
Though these stretches seem simple, what is so great about them is that multiple muscle groups are being lengthened at once. For example, the standing side straddle targets your hamstrings, glutes, and your back and oblique muscles all at once.
As I explained above, ensuring that you’re muscles are lengthened and tension is released throughout your workous/everyday life improves your functional movements significantly. So next time you hit the gym or you just have some time to kill, give these stretches a try!
Anyways, that’s all I have for y’all today. Have a fabulous weekend, babes!!
Photos by Riley Mahoney