Something that’s often overlooked when working out is stretching and how important it is.
We’re all guilty of this. Even if you do stretch after working out, are you doing it enough? Are you stretching correctly? Are you stretching the right things? Let’s talk about it!
The first thing we should address is the “when”. I feel like I know a lot of people that just jump into a big stretch first thing without doing anything else. They rush into “opening up” before they actually open up!
I always suggest doing a small amount of stretching after your warm up and a LOT of stretching after you finish your full workout! The stretch after your warm up insures that you have a full range of motion to best optimize your workout to it’s fullest potential.
It’s so important to be a little “warm” before you actually go into a big stretch. Now, I don’t mean that you literally need to be warm, but rather your muscles should have a little bit of action before you try to stretch it to it’s fullest. A lot of people will argue that “in yoga we just jump in and are ready to go!”. Well, you’re likely wrong. If you have a yoga instructor that knows what they’re doing then they are having you do small movements to warm up without you even noticing.
I’m not saying that you need to do a full out workout before a stretch. I just suggest that you move through the muscles that you’re planning on focusing your most effort. For example, if you are going to be working on opening up into a full split then you are going to want to do small dynamic exercises to warm up your legs. I like to do some variations on lunges, squats and hip hinges before I go into a split.
Now that we talked about the “when”, let’s talk about “what” you should be stretching. And honestly I am a fan of stretching your whole body daily. I am also a realist though and understand that no one has time to really do that! So we should do most things daily and focus on either problem areas or what you specifically just worked out that day as your “big” stretch.
For me as a long distance runner I need to focus on my legs a little bit more than some people. I tend to be super tight in my hamstrings and calves more often than not, so I have a designated set of stretches that I do to loosen those. But because I am opening through those, I want to devote time to the opposite muscles in my quads as well. Because as much as I use the back half of my legs during a run, the front half is working to stabilize that movement!
The last thing I want to cover is that you should just have fun when you get to the point you’re stretching! I always joke with my clients about how the stretch is always my favorite part of every workout. I am only about 30% joking because I LOVE seeing how flexible I’ve become over time!
There is nothing worse that waking up in the morning and feeling pain in your muscles because you didn’t stretch out right, or trying to do a new exercise and finding that you’re not able to because you can’t safely get yourself in the right position to execute the moves right! So, keep working at it and consistently keep stretching within your workout routine and you’re going to see all the results that you’re willing to push yourself to!