The end of a workout is the cool down phase of the workout and should be about 10 minutes in length. How many times do you finish your workout, go to stretch, rush through a couple of stretching poses, then call it good and head out the door?
How many times do you decide to just skip the stretching after your workout altogether?
Take the time to commit to the stretch. Relax your mind, let your heart rate return to normal, and wring out those hard-worked muscles. To minimize your distractions, I suggest you use an interval timer for stretching.
Using an interval timer allows you to truly have a proper stretch session.
You don't need to be constantly distracted by watching the clock or counting to yourself. You can get your much needed cool down and also relieve tension and stress in your body and mind by focusing on your breath, taking this time to listen to your body, and truly relax.
To properly perform a good cool down stretch, take a deep breath and then ease into the stretch on your exhale. Only stretch far enough that you feel a pull, but not pain. When you hit that point, take another deep breath, and as you exhale focus on relaxing.
If you feel relaxed, this is when you could try easing a little deeper into your stretch, but only as long as there is no pain. If you don't feel totally relaxed, just hold your position. Don't pulse with this stretch either. Smooth, deep, relaxing breaths will get the job done.
How do you cool down with an interval timer?
On your interval timer, set the WORK part for the amount of time you want to stretch (i.e. 30 seconds). On the REST setting, enter the amount of time you think it will take you to change positions into a new stretch. I usually set REST to 5 or 10 seconds.
The amount of ROUNDS will depend on the amount of time you are looking to stretch. If you are looking to stretch for 10 minutes with these settings, 15 rounds would be appropriate.
Give it a go!
So, I want you do 15 rounds of stretches. Trust me and try it, It's not as crazy as it might sound. Here are 15 rounds of stretches to for all your major muscles. Remember to listen to your body, breathe, relax, and enjoy your next post-workout stretch!
- Right Calf
- Left Calf
Do 2 rounds of Downward-Facing Dog to stretch the right and left calves.
- Right Quad
- Left Quad
Do Low Lunge on both sides to stretch the right and left quads.
- Right Hip Flexor
- Left Hip Flexor
Do Warrior I on both sides to stretch the right and left hip flexors.
- Right Hamstring
- Left Hamstring
Do Reclining Big Toe Pose on both sides to stretch the right and left hamstrings.
- Butterfly Hip Stretch
Do 1 round of Bound Angle or Butterfly Pose to stretch the inner hips.
- Right Knee-to-Chest Hold Lying Down
- Left Knee-to-Chest Hold Lying Down
Do Wind Relieving Pose on both sides to stretch the groin and lower back.
- Right Shoulder
- Left Shoulder
Do Shoulder Stretch on both sides to stretch the shoulders.
- Chest Stretch
Do 1 round of Locust Pose to stretch and open up the chest.
- Don't Forget Your Neck!
Do 1 round of Cat-Cow Pose to stretch the neck.
Here’s the low-down on stretching your muscles.
When stretching to cool down, you really, truly should stretch for at least 30 seconds, and for absolutely no shorter than 20 seconds. This is because when you first go into a stretch, your muscles say, "No, we don't want to go there."
It puts on a reflexive action in your body, causing your muscle to contract for the first 10 to 20 seconds of your stretch. Hold a little longer, and that muscle loosens up a bit, saying something like, "Whew, okay, I think we can do this."
This allows for lengthening of the muscle fibers, keeping you flexible and directly counteracting all the tougher movements you just performed, no matter the workout—cardio and strength training alike.