At the end of a training session or race it’s very easy to think you’ve done all your hard work and head straight for the shower. But… you should take time to cool down and stretch after a workout. And below are the reasons why you should be stretching after a bout of exercise.
Look to stretch all the muscle groups that you have been working during your exercise. Slowly move into the appropriate stretch, to a point where you can just feel the muscles stretch and hold it for about 30 seconds, then stretch a little more and hold for a further 30 seconds.
The main benefits of Stretching After a Workout are:
Stiffness and Soreness
When training and racing, muscles go through numerous contractions which leaves them in a miss-shaped and shortened state and this leaves you feeling stiff and sore if you don’t try and rectify the state by stretching. Regularly performing static stretching can help to decrease stiffness, reduce pain levels and can even reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps.
Range of Movement
Various types of stretching as well as other supportive self-care strategies, such as self-myofascial releasing using a foam roller, can help to enhance movement of the major joints of the body, including key areas that are designed to be mobile, such as the hips and shoulders.
Stretching ensures that muscles don’t become permanently shortened, which in turn, will reduce the range of movement in joints.
Minimized wear and tear on joints
When muscles become chronically tight and tense, opposing muscles become weakened, producing unnecessary wear and tear on various joint and structures within the body. Regular stretching helps to ensure the muscles on each side of a joint maintain an equal degree of pull so that the joint is able to move freely and efficiently in all directions, allowing for optimal movement and less stress on the body.
Reduce the Risk of Injury
By stretching, you reduce the risk of injury as you will have an improved range of motion, which in turn decreases resistance on your muscles.
Your body produces lactic acid during exercise, which makes your muscles tired and sore, stretching helps to eliminate the lactic acid.
Endorphins are released after a workout as your body starts to cool down, stretching helps slow the cooling process ensuring you feel energised after your workout.
Stretching helps the blood to flow back into your muscles at a more regulated pace, allowing your heart rate to come back to normal, your muscles feed on oxygen and nutrients brought in by the blood.
General posture is improved, people tend to stand up straighter particularly if you focus on stretching backs, shoulders and chests.
Toned & Flexible Muscles
Stretching over time will give your muscles tone and your body will look more slender. You only need to look at the bodies of those that practice Yoga on a regular basis. Increased flexibility, which will happen the more you stretch, will enable you to exercise more effectively.
Regularly performing stretching exercises, static stretching and stretches from mind-body disciplines such as yoga, can help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, counteracting the body’s physiological responses to stress and muscular tension.