Many people dart out of class or the gym after their workout ends, but you should know that stretching is an essential part of every workout. To avoid pain the following morning and to help your muscles recover, you need to dedicate time somewhere in your routine, whether it’s at the beginning or at the end (it should be both!). When you stretch pre-workout, you are increasing flexibility and preparing your muscles to move. Post-workout stretches supply blood and nutrients to your muscles, which reduces soreness. Here is an easy stretch guide to follow:
Ankle to knee: Lie flat on your back with a slight tilt in your pelvis. Bend your knees, while your feet remain flat on the ground. Bring one ankle up and place it at the knee of the opposite leg. Breathe in deeply and slowly exhaling as you stretch. Then, lift your upper leg toward your chest. Finally, release your ankle and repeat the stretch with your other leg.
Hamstring stretch: Lie flat on your back, bend one knee towards your chest while keeping the other leg extended on the floor. Slowly straighten your knee, grabbing the back of your leg with both hands. You’ll gently pull your leg while keeping your hips on the floor. Breathe deeply and hold for 15 seconds, repeat with the other leg.
Cat/cow stretch: Keep the spine neutral and neck long as you begin on all fours. Align the wrists underneath the shoulders and knees underneath hips. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, round the spine upwards and pull the belly up towards the spine. Tuck the chin towards the chest and release the neck, creating a cat-like shape. Inhale and as you do so, arch the back, allowing the belly to relax. Lift the head and tailbone upward, creating a cow-like position. Continue going from cat pose to cow pose and focus on the inhales and exhales.
Happy baby: Lie on your back, as you exhale, bend the knees into the belly. On an inhale, grab your feet, open the knees slightly wider than the torso and bring them toward your armpits. Keep the arms in front of the shins. Stay here for 40 seconds to 1 minute and release your feet.
Butterfly: Start in a sitting position, and bring the soles of the feet together. Gently pull your core inward and lean forward from the hips. Grab your feet with your hands, you’ll feel the stretch throughout the inner thighs, hips and lower back. Hold for 15-20 seconds, release and repeat.
The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency. Always be forgiving and easy on your body when you are stretching. To modify any stretch, bend your knees to relieve pressure on your hamstrings and lower back.
Ashley Godby, Fabletics Master