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.
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.
Stretching Out After Exercising – the legs
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 – Shoulders and Arms
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.
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!
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.