Got five minutes? That’s about as much time as a good stretching session will take. Surely, you can free up five minutes or so before your workout to show those muscles a little love. Need some motivation? Consider what stretching can do for you—it can:
- Help you maintain your flexibility
- Reduce the risk for injury
- Improve your circulation
- Ease stress
- Boost your energy levels
- Increase your range of motion
Experts recommend doing between five to 10 minutes of stretching after warming up, say, jogging or jumping rope, but before beginning your full workout. (Feel free to stretch after your workout, too.) If time is really tight, you can focus on stretching only the areas you’ll be working. So, if you’re going to run on the treadmill, you’d focus on your lower half.
Stretching is so important that I’ve included it as part of my functional fitness exercises—these are moves you should be doing everyday to improve posture, maintain flexibility and prevent injury, not only during your workout, but in everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries and walking up stairs, and so on.
Here are a few sample leg stretches from our Video Library that you might want to try out:
Upper Calf Stretch
Lower Calf Stretch
When you stretch be sure to hold each move for about 20 to 30 seconds, then relax for about 15 seconds or so before repeating. Aim to do two to five sets of each stretch, and don’t forget to breathe; breathing helps increase blood flow, which can make muscles more relaxed. Try to exhale through your nose as you’re stretching, and inhale as you relax.
Finally, be careful not to overstretch. You should feel a gentle pull as you stretch—if you feel sudden or sharp pain, stop or ease up a bit.
Do you make time for stretching?