Q: I was wondering if I should stretch at the end of a workout, or at both the beginning and end of a workout?
~Stuck on Stretching
A: Generally speaking, you want to stretch at the end of your workout, however it does depend upon the activity. For example, if you are in a ballet class where flexibility is needed, then after your warm up (you NEVER want to stretch your muscles when they are cold), you would do some stretching, and perhaps again at the end of your workout. In contrast, getting off the treadmill after a 5 minute warm-up to stretch and then go back on (and this is in a crowded gym) is not necessary and can be done after your cool-down. Note however that if you do have injuries, stretching before AND after a workout is a good idea.
When it comes to stretching, be mindful that there are 4 types of stretching: Active, Dynamic, Passive and Static. Most people thinking of stretching in the static form, where you are holding a body part to feel a stretch for 20-30 seconds (like in the image at the top of this post) or passive stretching, where you are using an object to help you get a better stretch, such as with a yoga block.
Dynamic stretching (sometimes called a dynamic warm-up) is often used in sports before a game or practice and involves doing 10-12 repetitions of working comfortably through a range of motion.
Active stretching is where you are contracting a muscle opposite to the one you are stretching, such as in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitated stretching (or PNF). PNF is an excellent way of helping you achieve better flexibility.
Finally, another way you can release tense muscles is to use foam rolling. Foam rolling is a self myofascial release technique (it works on the fascia or connective tissue of the muscle) where you roll the tense muscle (specifically, the trigger point <- that means where it hurts!) over a foam roller for 30-60 seconds. Avoid rolling over joints and bones. Note that foam rollers come in different lengths and hardness and can be easily purchased from Amazon and other fitness stores.
Good luck on improving your flexibility!
To tense-free days ahead,
Fit Tips & Workouts by Cat Wilson
Go ahead, Get Fit! Your Body Deserves It...and So Do You :)
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