If your answer is yes, then ask yourself this: Did I stretch after my workout yesterday?
This happens to me all the time. I come home from the gym feeling great, like I got a solid workout, then I wake up the next morning and can barely walk down the steps...it stinks but I can only blame myself. Forgetting to stretch is almost as bad as forgetting to go to the gym in the first place.
A debate that has long been argued in my own head is whether stretching before or after a workout is best. I've talked to a number of trainers throughout my years at different gyms and have heard different responses.
My best answer from a trainer that I worked with in London, England when I studied abroad was to always stretch AFTER your workout is complete. This is because you want to realign your muscles; weight lifting, running, etc, stretches out your ligaments and to return them back to their original position is where effective stretching comes in.
Stretching before a workout is not effective and may even cause injury because you're stretching cold muscles. A great warmup is a 5-10 minute steady walk on the treadmill, climb on the elliptical or ride on the bike, enough to get your blood pumping and muscles warmed up!
Your first priority at the gym should definitely be getting a good workout but your second focus should be stretching...
But we all have our days at the gym where we are in a hurry to get out as fast as we came in, right? Well, that excuse is no reason to skimp out on stretching, just cut your 30 minute run to 25 and STRETCH!
Here are some reasons why stretching should never be forgotten at the gym:
- Decreases injuries: Continual use of your muscles without proper stretching won't allow them to rejuvenate efficiently before your next workout leading to a potential injury.
- Helps to improve flexibility: Your range of motion will naturally improve by holding a stretch for 30-60 seconds (and breathing).
- Decreases soreness: Stretching increases blood flow and nutrient supply to muscles and helps decrease that lactic acid buildup that naturally happens during a workout.
- Calms the mind: Recharging your body and allowing your mind to take a break from the intensity is important.
- It feels great: You can definitely feel a solid stretch like you can feel a solid workout.
Check out this chart that I found on Sportsscience.com featuring some really great whole-body stretches!