For the most part, people understand the value of stretching before a workout, game, or practice. In fact, a good and thorough pre-game stretch can greatly reduce your risk of injury, and can help you perform at your very best. However, the general public doesn't seem to understand how important it is to stretch directly after a workout. In the simplest terms, muscles need to repair themselves after exercising and leaving them to stiffen up is a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, CoachUp has detailed why just taking a few extra minutes to cool down can be the difference between a sore athlete and a ready one the following day. Take a look and remember this article before leaving the track immediately after a workout -- your body will thank you!
When muscles are contracted and tight, as they naturally are after a strenuous game or training session, they simply cannot repair themselves as quickly. Stretching loosens the tendons and fibers in the muscles, allowing them to begin the process much faster. Of course, the faster your muscles can repair themselves, the more you can develop and grow them. If you really want to get the most out of your workout, you’ll need to stretch immediately and consistently after exercising.
Stretching contracted fibers also allows blood to flow more freely through your muscles. This added blood flow helps relax your muscles and removes any lingering and harmful acids in the tissues. No one likes being sore and in pain the day after a hard workout, and it can actually turn-off a large number of people from even working out that day or week at all.
OK, What’s The Plan?
A good, deep stretch after exercising - even if it's just a light workout - will help reduce soreness, which will inspire you to get back in the gym even quicker. Try a smaller combination of both static and dynamic stretches as well -- some of our personal favorites include: the butterfly, leg + butt kicks, and the quadriceps stretch! After running, you’re often so burnt out from giving 100% on the field or track that you’d like nothing more than to crash on your couch with a pint of ice cream, but that can be harmful.
Theoretically, when you stretch before a game, you slowly warm-up, moving your body from 0 to 40 or 50 MPH before revving your engine up to 100. Just like a car, you can’t simply floor it from 0 to 100, and that’s why stretching comes in handy pre-game, but post-game works nearly the same as well. Say you’ve just completed a race at 100%, then, suddenly, you’re on the couch with you ice cream, at exactly 0%. It’s incredibly tough for a body to go from 0 to 100 at the blink of an eye, so doesn’t it make sense that it’s just as hard to go in the other direction?
Again, this cool-down doesn’t have to be anything strenuous or exhausting, just try to take care of your body and anything that might stiff, tight, or in pain. And, even if it sounds like the worst thing the entire world, consider grabbing a foam roller and rehab with that ice cream!
(Related: Read about the benefits of push-ups here.)
It can be hard to find the energy for a good, long stretch after a hard workout, but we guarantee that if you take the time to do it, you'll see a vast overall improvement in your strength and flexibility. Stretching is a great way to help your muscles recover after exercising, but make sure to do other things as well, like drink lots of water. Believe it not, taking care of your body through stretching, rehab, and hydration can be more important than having those crucial physical traits. You can't use your speed if you're in the locker room! Use post-game stretching to your advantage and you'll get the most out of your workout every time!
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.