After going through the Start Strong Challenge with you all, I realized that a lot of you were a little lost when it came to stretching, warming up, and cooling down. This can be a little confusing when you’re starting out and you might opt for just skipping it all together, but DON’T!
Warming up, cooling down, and stretching are all super important in your workout routine and will help keep you injury-free. So I thought I would break down each part for ya and give you a few stretches that you can use after your workouts.
Warming up before your workout is extremely important. Dynamic warm-ups are best for before your workouts. Dynamic warm-up just means that you’re moving as you stretch to warm-up the body and get it ready for peak performance. This isn’t the old “stretch and hold” protocol. If you want some more info on dynamic warm-ups and the numerous benefits, check out THIS POST.
Cooling down is really important too. This mainly applies to high intensity exercises and cardio, anything where your heart rate is elevated for an extended amount of time. When your heart rate is elevated, you want to slowly bring it back down to your resting heart rate-which is what the cool down aims to do.
Let's say that you just went on a run and you're ready to wrap it up. Don't just stop and take a seat to catch your breath! You need to let your body cool down by slowly decreasing the pace until you are at a normal walking pace. When I'm done on the treadmill, for example, I'll bring the pace down to a speed-walking type pace for about a minute. Then the following minute I will decrease it a little. Still keeping a fast walking pace but not as fast as the speed walking pace. Then for the next minute I will bring it down a little more, and for the final 2-3 minutes I'll keep it at a normal walking pace to let my heart rate slow back down. It's a gradual climb back down instead of just stopping all at once.
Static stretches are the stretch and hold type of stretches and they're best performed after your workout. After you're done working out, be sure to stretch before going about your day. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and you can do 1-3 sets of each stretch. There are a bunch of stretches to choose from, but I'm just gonna give you a few to start with.
Upper Body Stretches
Lower Body Stretches
Try 'em out!
I can't wait for you to give these a try! Be sure to reference each picture for form and remember that everyone's flexibility level is different. Don't ever try to over-stretch yourself just because someone else is stretching that far. Just go until you feel a gentle stretch and hold-it should NOT be painful. Don't let your ego get in the way here, because you'll just end up doing more damage than good and the whole point here is to help avoid injuries, not create them! 😉 The more you practice it, the more flexible you'll get, but it's a process. Just like with exercising, no one walks in a total expert-we all start from the bottom and work our way up!
Get in the habit of warming up before each workout and cooling down and stretching after. Your body will thank you! 🙂
Give 'em a try after your next workout and let me know how it goes!
Until next time,
P.S. if you're looking for even more stretches and the ability to see which muscles you're stretching. Check out this awesome article that I just found.