Everyone can relate to finishing a grueling workout and being so drained that you just want to crash. This is one of the biggest obstacles from working out, but it’s vital for your body’s well-being to ease into a stop, instead of slamming on the brakes.
It’s absolutely essential to properly stretch before your workout and to properly cool down afterwards. Post-workout cool-down activities give your body the time to gradually slow its heart rate, while priming yourself to enter recovery mode. Plus, if you incorporate static stretching or foam rolling into your cooldown periods, you will give your drained muscles the love and care they need.
“These types of stretches promote lengthening of the individual muscle fibers, increasing blood circulation and removing waste products to help bring your body back to a pre-exercise state,” explains Dave Weaving, owner and operator of the Livingston and Morristown StretchLab facilities, a unique wellness and fitness provider focused on, you guessed it, stretching.
Weaving pointed out that his StretchLab Flexologists utilize a customized one-on-one stretch routine to reduce specific pain and tightness while working to increase a client’s flexibility and range of motion.
Despite only taking five to 10 minutes, it’s easy to overlook the critical warm-up and cool-down steps of your workout. So before you jump straight into an exercise or jump into the shower afterwards, dedicate a few minutes to incorporating a warm-up and cool-down period into your exercise routine.
The Mistake: Skipping the Post-Workout Cooldown
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), your body experiences a number of taxing processes while exercising, including breaking down chemicals that can lead to both muscle soreness and fatigue. If you incorporate an active recovery cool down, including a series of stretches, you’ll prepare your body to naturally begin its repair process. This will help you minimize and avoid any unnecessary soreness.
Dedicate the last five to 10 minutes of your workout routine to a cooldown session. In a 60-minute workout, the first three to five minutes should serve as a warm-up, the next 45 to 50 minutes should be the bulk of your exercise, and the last five to 10 minutes should be your active cooldown that includes both stretching and foam rolling.
The Mistake: Not Stretching Properly
Muscle soreness is one of the biggest turn-offs for people debating whether or not they should workout. Luckily for them, stretching before and after working out can lessen the soreness altogether.
"During a workout, small micro-tears begin to form in your muscle tissue due to the force and resistance you place on your body during intense exercise," says Weaving.
Weaving also says that your body begins to produce lactic acid, which is another cause for post-workout muscle soreness. "It's important to stretch after a workout to help your body recover by increasing blood and oxygen through stretching and foam rolling, which helps initiate the recovery process."
A 2012 clinical commentary in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy says that you should strive to do two to four rounds of roughly 30-second stretches for each muscle group you trained.
The ideal type of post-workout stretches are static ones, which you hold for a few seconds to a minute, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretches t, which involve contracting and stretching the targeted muscle group.
The Mistake: Neglecting the Foam Roller
Foam rollers not only increase your joint range of motion, but they also help reduce muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training.
"This type of muscular release allows the user the ability to control the application of pressure in needed areas of the body, and they are in control of the healing and recovery process," says Weaving.
Weaving goes on to further explain that foam rolling assists with releasing tightness and increasing the blood flow and oxygen to desired areas of the body. These processes allow your nervous system to relax your muscles, and therefore, hastens their recovery, which is why StretchLab Flexologists incorporate them so frequently into their regular stretching routines for clients.
"Rolling before a workout provides blood flow and mobility to the muscles you're about to use, especially if you're working out after sitting for long periods of time," Weaving explains. Post-workout, he says your muscles need to release built-up lactic acid in order to allow the recovery process to happen.
Rolling is a simple process that you can learn quickly. Put the roller under the muscle that you want to focus on and brace yourself on top while controlling how much body weight you press down on it. Move up and down to roll back and forth a few inches, while stopping on any point that feels like it needs more attention.
StretchLab Flexologists can assist clients with how to properly use rollers for maximum benefits.
For more information or to request a discounted assisted-stretch, call StretchLab in Livingston at (973) 738-2000 or visit https://www.stretchlab.com/location/livingston. For StretchLab in Morristown, call (973) 796-2793 or visit https://www.stretchlab.com/location/morristown.