If there’s one thing in the exercise world that’s more tempting than not running, it’s not stretching afterwards.
Most of us are pretty good about warming up and getting limber before a workout, but once the hard work is done and the fitness endorphins are flowing, it’s very easy to call it a day and hit the showers feeling accomplished.
If you are serious about getting fitter and faster, however, those few minutes following your cool-down walk are an unbeatable opportunity to treat your body right.
Here’s what’s in it for you.
1. Prevent injury. Just like stretching before a workout can help prevent a debilitating mid-run cramp or ward off the kind of sudden muscle tightness that leads to getting hurt, stretching after a workout can make you a more durable runner over the long haul.
A flexible, well-stretched body is simply more resistant to injury — whether that’s a training injury that occurs during a run or a more mundane injury like the ones you get taking a funny step off of a curb at the grocery store or tweaking yourself moving a bookcase.
2. Recover faster. That pain you feel the day after a run is usually some combination of good, healthy muscle soreness and lousy overall body stiffness. Soreness is typically positive and recuperative. Stiffness generally is not.
You’ll be amazed at how stretching after a workout can help you feel better the following day. After all, you should be able to revel in that post-workout ache without feeling like you can’t lift your leg without wincing in pain because your body is tight.
3 Get stronger. This one’s the trump card. Especially as you get more and more experienced as a runner and an athlete, it can be tempting to forget the basics and feel like you can get by without something as simple (and, let’s face it, mundane) as stretching after a workout. Don’t do it.
Here’s the bottom line: a well-stretched, flexible muscle is stronger than a tight, inflexible one.
If you’re serious about building strength and speed, getting limber is absolutely crucial. There’s a brief window of time after a workout when your muscles are flexible and hot where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. Take advantage of it every chance you get.
If stretching has a negative, no-fun connotation in your mind (like perhaps running used to), remember that you have lots of options — from the traditional stuff you probably used to do in gym class to more mentally challenging activities like yoga. You should certainly be doing whatever works for you.
So that said, you tell us! What works for you? How long do you spend stretching after a workout? Any favorite stretches to share?