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How to Stretch Out After Exercising

October 8, 2018

When I was a young mama trying to lose my pregnancy pounds, I enrolled in a Christian aerobics class at a church across town. Do you gals remember Christian aerobics? I’m really dating myself, huh. But the six years I participated in that aerobics class were some of the most pivotal in my life as far as fitness. Not only did I workout with that group of gals pretty religiously three times a week, making exercise a lifelong habit, but I learned some fitness basics from our leader Cindy that have served me well over the years. One of the most important things Cindy taught us was how to stretch out after exercising, safely and effectively. I thought I’d share with you today the stretching routine and guidelines that I have used now for over 25 years.

How to Stretch Out After Exercising

Now keep in mind that while Cindy was an extremely knowledgeable and skilled physical trainer, I am not. So I’m not offering you expertise as much as experience. I’m just passing on what I’ve learned and what has kept me safe and without injury for about 25 years.

Stretching out helps prevent injury and also reduces soreness. Properly stretching out after exercising will also help increase flexibility, which we often begin to lose with age. Flexibility and range of motion, another benefit of stretching, are important because they make us more agile and less prone to injuries from falling, over-extending our limbs, lifting heavy objects and doing everyday tasks. Finally, stretching is a great stress reliever and a soothing finish for our exercise sessions.

Basic Guidelines for Stretching Out After Exercising

Let’s talk about the basics of stretching before I get into the routine I use. These are important, so don’t skip over them.

  • If you want to stretch out prior to exercising, use dynamic stretches as opposed to static stretches. Dynamic stretching can be as basic as moving slowly into your exercise, whether it be walking ten minutes before a run or weight training routine or moving side to side and marching in place before a zumba workout. (I’m sharing my static stretches for post exercise today.)
  • Only do static stretches like I’m sharing here, when your muscles are warm, preferably after exercising at least 30 minutes.
  • After exercising, keep moving. Don’t sit down. Get some water and slowly cool down a little by walking around or moving in place.
  • Ease into each stretch, pushing yourself beyond your comfort level gently. But don’t force the stretch.
  • Tension is good; pain is not. If the stretch hurts, you have gone too far.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 16-20 seconds. This is very important. Do not rush through your stretches or they lose their benefit.
  • Breathe. Do not hold your breath as you stretch. Not only does breathing keep you from passing out (that’s important!), but it keeps oxygen flowing through your weary muscles.

A Simple Routines for Stretching Out After Exercising

The following routine is by no means an exhaustive list of stretches. It’s simply the routine that has worked for me after most cardio workouts. It doesn’t include stretches for some parts of the body, such as the neck, wrists or abdominal muscles. Honestly, you could stretch up to 30 minutes and still have parts of your body to stretch out. But this routine does hit most of the major muscles and joints you use in walking, running or lifting.

Let’s go!

Stretching Out After Exercising – the legs

How to Stretch Out After Exercising
1. Hold onto something if needed, but extend your left foot in front of your right foot about 12 inches. Resting your foot on your heel and pointing your toes upward, bend forward, reaching your left hand toward your left toe. Stretch the back of your left leg, feeling the stretch in your hamstring, behind your knee and your calf. Do not extend your right knee past your right toes. Hold the stretch 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
2. Now lengthen your toes of your left foot to the ground and sit back slightly, maintaining the bent knee position of your right leg. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
3. Now shift your left leg to where it is behind you. Place your left foot behind you a comfortable distance, holding onto something as needed, and lean into your right foot, with your right knee bent (but not past your toes). Your still stretching your left leg, and you should feel the stretch in the back of the leg from heel up, but mainly behind your knee. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
4. Now shift ever so slightly into the next stretch by “dropping” your knee and lifting your left heel off the ground naturally. Don’t move your feet. You should feel this stretch mostly in your left calf and the back of the heel. Hold the stretch for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
5. Now bring your left foot closer to your right foot only slightly and drop your left knee further. You should be perpendicular to the ground from your shoulder to your knee. Don’t push your knee too hard toward the ground, but you should feel a stretch in the front of your hip flexor, right about where my hand is in this photo. Be sure to pull up in your shoulders; don’t slouch forward in order to feel this stretch fully. Do not extend your right knee past your toes. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
6. Now stretch out the other leg and hip flexor through the same set of stretches. First, stretch the back of your leg, mostly in the calf.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
7. Drop the toes of your right foot and sit down into the stretch, feeling the stretch more behind your knee and up into your glutes. Remember not to extend your left knee past your toes. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
8. Shift your right leg to where you right foot is behind you so that you can lean into your left foot, bending the left leg and feeling the stretch from heel to glutes in your right leg.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
9. Drop the right knee slightly toward the grow, feeling the stretch more in the back of the heel. You can bring your heel slightly off the ground. Do not over stretch.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
10. This isn’t the best photo of the hip flexor stretch. See no. 5 above if needed. I should be a little straighter from shoulder to kneed. But drop the right knee further down, and feel the stretch in the right hip flexor, right where my right hand is. Remember not to slouch forward. Hold for 16-20 seconds. This stretch always feel so good to me.

Really all of the stretches should feel good. Yes, they should “stretch you.” But they should be solace for your weary muscles after a good workout.

How to Stretch Out After Exercising – Glutes and Back

Next, I move on to my glutes and back. These feel good, but they look a little embarrassing! Still, they’re worth it, and especially important for your back. Do not, in fact, attempt to stretch out your sides until you have properly stretched out your back.

How to Stretch Out After Exercising
11. Stretch out your glutes by squatting with your legs spread wide and sitting back in your rear. Do not allow your knees to extend forward past your toes, so the squat is definitely a sitting squat. You should feel the stretch in your glutes or rump. Hold for 16 – 20 seconds, or stop sooner if you begin to feel undue pressure on your shins or ankles. Hold onto something in front of you if needed. Your back should be straight. Do not bounce, which would put stress on your knees. Go directly into the next stretch from this pose if possible.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
12. Directly from the previous stretch, slowly lift your back into an arch, grabbing hold of the back of your thighs through the opening between your two legs. Slowly pull into this stretch. Your back should be arched like a cat’s and you should feel the stretch now in your back and a little in your shoulders. Pull your elbows outward to feel this stretch fully. Hold for 16-20 seconds. You may go back into the previous stretch again from here and then return to this one for another count of 16.

How to Stretch Out After Exercising – Shoulders and Arms

How to Stretch Out After Exercising
13. After slowly standing up straight from the last stretch, with your feet still planted apart, slowly bring your arms forward, lock your forward-facing hands together gently and push them forward, feeling the stretch across the back of your shoulders and into your arms. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
14. Now slowly move your hands behind you, circling back while keeping your hands parallel to the ground. Clasp your hands together if possible and gently pull upward. No need to pull your hands up high, you don’t want to pull the muscles in your shoulders, just stretch them. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
15. Now slowly, gently pull one arm forward and across the font of your body. Use the other arm to gently press your extended arm into your chest, pressing just above your elbow. Once again, no need to overdo this stretch. It’s a very gentle stretch. You should feel it across the top of your back, in your shoulder blades and along the outside of your upper arm. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
16. Now slowly, gently pull the other arm forward and across the font of your body. Use the other arm to gently press your extended arm into your chest, pressing just above your elbow. Once again, no need to overdo this stretch. It’s a very gentle stretch. You should feel it across the top of your back, in your shoulder blades and along the outside of your upper arm. Hold for 16-20 seconds.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
17. After stretching out your back with the previous stretches, it is okay to stretch from side to side. Once again, move into this stretch slowly, bending through your torso, staying perpendicular to the ground. Use your arm to pull into the stretch by gently extending it over your head and pulling to the side. No need to pull to the point of misery, just feel a good full stretch in your side. You can rest your other hand on your thigh or use it to pull into the stretch even more by extending it toward the side you are stretching. Hold for 16 – 20 seconds and then slowly pull back upright before moving into the stretch for the other side.
How to Stretch Out After Exercising
18. From the previous stretch, simply move in the other direction, using your extended arm to pull you into this stretch. You should feel the stretch in the side of your torso. Keep your legs apart and straight, but your knees soft. Don’t lock your knees in any of these stretches. Hold for 16-20 seconds.

After Stretching Out

No, this isn’t a comprehensive list of stretches. Sometimes I get down on a mat and do some stretches there as well. Especially after doing crunches or any abdominal work at all, I stretch out both my back and my abs on the floor. Maybe I’ll do another post on floor stretches one of these days. But if you feel limited on time (and that is the number 1 reason people give for not stretching out after exercise) then the 18 stretches in this post will definitely suffice.

Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. And I find it best to move slowly into my routine after stretching out. The older I get, the more my body appreciates these stretches. In fact, I can tell at night if I haven’t stretched out some time during the day.

How to Stretch Out After Exercising
RBX short sleeve space dye v-neck tee in rum raisin // The Balance Collection yoga pants with pocket (similar)//  Nike Women’s Air Max Torch 4 Running Shoes // Bomba socks // S’well water bottle in Liberty print

More Fitness Information

Like I said, my physical trainer Cindy taught me these stretches, and I can say 25 years later that these simple stretches – held for at least 16 counts each – have kept me completely injury free through years of running, hiking, backpacking, swimming, zumba and weight training. But stretching alone won’t keep me fit.

For years I focused on cardio workouts, and honestly they served me well. While I lifted weights three times a week (also because Cindy taught me the importance of weight training) I didn’t lift to the extent I probably should have been. And after a while just running five times a week wasn’t enough to keep the weight off and the strength and energy up.

When I began my first round of the FASTer Way to Fat Loss in January of this year, I discovered that I was probably exercising too much. At least I was doing too much cardio. My adrenal glands were stressed and that was contributing to my lack of energy and my inability to lose weight. In fact, I was diagnosed with a mild case of hypothyroidism, which may have resulted partly from adrenal fatigue.

As I began to lift weights with more purpose, consistency and variety, I developed more muscle. And with more muscle I was able to do less cardio and actually drop the pounds. I lost and have kept off 20 pounds. But considering I probably also gained significant muscle mass, I have undoubtedly lost more than 20 pounds of fat. Plus, I have more energy, I sleep better and I am physically stronger than ever before.

If you’re interested in learning more about the FASTer Way to Fat Loss, I encourage you to read my post about the FASTer Way to Fat Loss and the Older Woman and/or check out the extensive information on their website. They’re registering now for the October 15 round, and I’d love for you to get in on it if you’re interested.  Wouldn’t it be great to get those nagging 10 pounds off before Christmas? You bet it would.

In invite you to check out FWTFL. It has been not just a game changer for me, but a life changer. So I’d be glad to answer any questions you have. Plus, I’m offering additional incentives if you sign up for the October 15 round through my referral link. I wish you all the best in your fitness journey, whichever road you may be on!

FASTer Way to Fat Loss Incentives

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Blessed for My Day

My post is late this Monday because I finally realized I had been pushing myself too much on Sundays. It’s not that I am legalistic about doing no work on Sundays, but I do find that the biblical principle of taking a day of rest has proven fruitful in my life. And Sundays, with going to church, preparing a dish for small group, going to small group, preparing discussion questions for our small groups and prepping a blog post for Mondays, were turning into the day I dreaded most. More importantly, I began to feel convicted that I was working every day of the week on this blog, and I wasn’t taking a day to just turn my attention completely to the Lord. So, yesterday I didn’t work on this blog at all. And while I never got in a nap or really even had time to sit down much, I did get turn my attention more fully to the Lord and His church. That’s why, even if I lose pageviews blah, blah, blah today, I know it was worth it to listen to that still small voice that told me to step away from the computer for a day. And I’ll continue to do so each Sunday from here on out.

Today I’m not asking you if you need to do the same. But I’m asking you if there is something that the Lord has been gently prodding you about that you need to heed as well. I didn’t obey this prodding immediately, mind you. No, I had to reach a point of exhaustion and frustration before I finally threw my hands up in the air and said, “Ok. I give in.” But I hope it doesn’t take that for you. Today my prayer for you is that you will listen to that still, small voice and simply obey. Because I can guarantee you it is for your good, not your harm. Bless you, sweet sisters!

As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” ~ Hebrews 3:15

I’ve used affiliate links in this post. If you shop or register for the FWTFL through my links, I earn a commission on your purchase, but at no additional cost to you. The FWTFL costs the same regardless of how you register. There are no coupon codes or discounts. But I do appreciate greatly when you shop through my retail links or join the FWTFL through my referral codes. Thank you so much.

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xoxo, Kay
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6 thoughts on “How to Stretch Out After Exercising

  1. I understand the struggle Kay. In fact, I don’t know how you post so much. I struggle to get out 3 posts some week, because I like to nap and relax too!! And you need a day of rest…we all do.
    Stretching is SO important. That’s why I twisted my mom’s arm (the 80+ model on my blog) to go to stretching class with us.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Yes, I think that’s wonderful that you all do that stretching class together. My mom, who is 83, goes to a gym at her church three times a week for a pretty long exercise class where they work out with weights, walk and do a lot of stretches. I’m so proud of her! I know you’re proud of your mom, too!

    1. Ahh, thanks for commiserating, Dianna! I do take consolation that you gals have the same struggles, and I’m determined to get on top of it before it all gets on top of me! Nice to see you here today! 🙂

  2. Hi Kay, your blog is awesome and I appreciate how much time, effort, thought & work you put into each post. Your writing ability is amazing. If a post comes later or not at all on a Monday, that’s ok…you need time to rest too.
    Thank you for sharing your stretching routine!
    PS….we had snow last week and colder temperatures than usual for this time of year! The snow has almost all melted but it’s still cool!

    1. Thank you so much for your reassuring words, Barb. I really appreciate that. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂