By Chris Freytag
September 23, 2013 12:36 PM EDT
Maybe you view stretching as a nice thing to do if you still have some time after your workout is finished, but stretching is actually an essential part of any workout. It offers numerous benefits to your body, so it’s best not to skip!
Here are 5 things you should know about stretching.
1. You never want to stretch your body when it’s cold.
Before a workout, warm up your body slowly with a less intense form of whatever workout you have planned. For example, walk slowly to warm up your body before a power walk. Or walk fast to warm up your body before a jog. Doing a group fitness class? Your instructor might have you march in place to begin to warm up the body. Think low-intensity warm-up before your workout and stretching after your workout—when the body is already warm.
2. Stretching can save you from injuries and soreness.
Stretching can improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injuries by improving your range of motion and increasing your flexibility. Stretching after exercise can help relax and balance tension caused by the workout itself. You’ll save yourself from tight, sore muscles the following day.
3. Stretching will make you a better athlete.
When you’re able to bend and move into various positions more easily, you will achieve better athletic performance since your joints can properly move through the full range of motion. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscle and will only improve your workout results. If you stretch consistently, you will see improvements in your flexibility.
4. You should never bounce when you stretch.
Instead, hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Avoid moving up and down, which can cause small tears in the muscle. These types of tears can leave scar tissue as the muscle heals and make you even less flexible. Remember to repeat each stretch at least three times. If you ever feel pain, stop immediately. Back off to a comfortable point, and start again.
5. Always stretch on both sides and keep everything balanced.
You should feel tension while you are stretching, but not pain. It it hurts, pull back a while. Gaining flexibility is a gradual process, so hold the stretch in a gentle place and stretch with every workout to see improvements.
The calming feeling of a good stretch is an excellent way to end an intense workout. Stretching relaxes both mind and body, bringing a heightened sense of well-being following exercise. Make stretching part of your workout routine and both your body and mind will benefit.