Whenever I workout—whether I’m running, doing yoga, HIIT training or something else—I always stretch. While many people view stretching as a quick warm-up or cool-down, it’s actually so much more than that. In addition to loosening up our joints and improving our flexibility, stretching actually reduces our risk of injury and makes us better in the gym or on the sports field. So fascinating, isn’t it?
Stretching is the real pregame… and the after party.
When we don’t regularly stretch our muscles, our muscles become tighter, shorter and less reliable when we need them. This not only causes pain and discomfort, but it increases joint pain, muscle strain and, eventually, even muscle tears or damage! By regularly stretching, I’m helping my muscles get long, lean and flexible, thus keeping me feeling strong, comfortable and balanced.
Stretching won’t magically give us flexibility or make us better in the gym, which is why it’s so important to work at it. Stay committed to the process and trust me: the results will be so, so rewarding.
The Megan Mae Basics
To actually see those results, you have to do it right. Here are some of my top tips for getting the most out of your stretching:
- Pregame your pregame stretch. Stretching cold muscles can actually make you hurt yourself, so do 5-10 minutes of a short walk, low-intensity biking or even just jumping jacks before really getting into your first round of stretching.
- Don’t overdo it! Stretching should be gentle. Everyone’s flexibility is different, so don’t think you have to stretch like everyone else. If you aim for equal flexibility on both sides, and you’re already off to a great start.
- Start with your major muscle groups. Think: calves, thighs, hip flexors, quadriceps, lower back, neck and shoulders, and stretch both sides.
- Don’t bounce! …Unless you’re taking a dance break.
- Inhale, exhale. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds.
- If it hurts, you’ve gone too far! You should feel tension, yes, but stretching shouldn’t be overly painful. If something hurts you, lessen your stretch a little bit.
- Tailor your stretching to your workout. This doesn’t mean only stretching certain muscles! Stretch all of them, but if you know it’s leg day or you’re going for a run, hold that hamstring stretch a little longer.
- Most important: Do what works for YOU. You know you’re body better than anyone else, so if there’s something you can’t do, don’t! Our bodies always tell us if something is wrong. All we have to do is listen.
To your health!