Stretching is essential to your gym routine, and it is often the one component that is overlooked. We are pressed for time, and sometimes that extra 10-20 minutes is simply not realistic. But, here’s the secret, you have to make time for a stretching routine. It is a non-negotiable because your body is going to experience stress as you work out. You want to give your body a little nod to say, “Hey, we are about to get goin’” and “Okay, we’re done”, so that you mitigate injury and can perform at your best. But, should you stretch before or after a workout? We will find out now.
Think about what time of day you tend to work out. For a lot of us, it is right when we wake up, or right after a long day at the office. You may not have moved much, if at all, in the several hours before you work out, making your muscles extra tight. So, you need to get your body ready for its upcoming training. We will get into static stretching later, but what you should do before your workout is dynamic stretching exercises. Dynamic stretching simply means that your body is moving as you stretch. You would be stretching the muscles that you are about to use, and starting to get them active. Dynamic stretching is a cornerstone of your warm-up.
First, think about what workout you are going to do, then start to move those muscles. You may do arm circles, or hold a PVC pipe out in front of you, lifting and lowering to stretch your shoulders. For an ab workout, you may try twisting your core for a few minutes. If you are planning to run, butt-kicks or high knees might be a great place to start. There are plenty of dynamic stretches that you can try. Dynamic stretches are so active that they are also known as dynamic workouts. With a well-thought-out dynamic stretch, you could complete your warm-up and stretch with the exact same movements. You can find fantastic examples here.
Now that you have worked your muscles and they are tight, tired, and starting to feel a little sore, it is a great time to stop and stretch. Stretching after a workout can help to improve flexibility and even aid in faster recovery times. Not only does stretching after a workout feel great, but it also helps you to wind down and end your workout calmly and comfortably. You are giving yourself that little confirmation that you are complete.
Static stretching means that you are focusing on one muscle for an extended time, usually 10 seconds to one minute. For an arm workout, you might reach your right arm up to the sky, bend your elbow and let your hand come down to your neck or upper back, and then push down on your elbow with your left hand (repeat on the other side). For a run, you might want to bend your knee and pull your right foot up to your right glute and hold for 10 seconds to 1 minute (repeat on the other side). There are also neck stretches, foot stretches, even finger stretches that you can do. So, think about which part of your body needs an extra streeeetch and try and focus in on it. You can find a ton of deep, effective stretches on YouTube.
Another way (and, admittedly, our favorite way) to have the ultimate cool-down stretch is to join in on a yin-style yoga session after your workout—either head to The Studio or your next yoga class in the group exercise room. In class, you will be focusing on deep, mindful stretches guided by an instructor who can help target areas that need some extra love, and even correct your form if it is off. By doing so, you can stretch deep into the muscles you used and enjoy the mind/body benefits of yoga while you’re at it. And—hey—you might even make a friend or ten. That’s an added bonus if we’ve ever heard one!
The verdict is in for, “Do you stretch before or after your workout”. Folks, you should be stretching before and after your workout. And there is plenty of room for you to stretch it out at any of our locations. If you are going to work out hard, make sure to recover easy. Meaning, do whatever possible to aid in muscle soreness after exercise. Try implementing dynamic and static stretching in your routine for a well-rounded trip to the gym.
We hope to see you soon!