When it comes to breaking a sweat, it’s easy to live in the moment. Your adrenaline is pumping as you pick up speed skiing down the mountain, or dodging puddles of water when trail running, or even hitting the beat in your favorite cycling class. After the rush of a hard workout, usually the first thing our bodies want to do is rest, rightly so. Resting is vital for protecting the strength of our muscles and giving them the care they need. However, another often overlooked, yet essential component of physical health is our flexibility. Breaking a sweat alongside stretching and rest is the most productive way to protect and sustain our bodies. These three practices are essential in their own ways but we really want to hone in on the practice of stretching. It’s incredibly important and we’re excited to tell you why.
Breaking a sweat alongside stretching and rest is the most productive way to protect and sustain our bodies.
First, whenever we’re breaking a sweat through intense exercise, our bodies are building up lactic acid. During a hard workout, our bodies use oxygen to break down glucose in order to give us energy. However, when oxygen is limited then our bodies produce lactic acid instead to break down glucose so we can keep going. While lactic acid build up is completely normal, it can lead to some muscle stiffness and soreness following your workout. Stretching increases blood circulation in the body which in turn can bring more oxygen to the muscles. This means that taking the time to stretch after breaking a sweat can result in feeling less sore and more refreshed the next day.
Research has shown that stretching, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day can improve your performance and make you a better athlete, no matter the kind of exercise you prefer. Stretching improves flexibility and when our muscles are flexible it leads to better range of motion in the joints. Not only does this help improve form and speed, but it can keep your joints healthier longer. Because they’re able to move easier with less resistance, there is less wear and tear over time. Flexible joints supported by strong muscles also decreases the chance for injuries when you are breaking a sweat because your body can move with more ease.
Whether you want to take a few minutes every night to stretch or jump into a weekly restorative yoga class, you’ll be doing your body a favor.
Another incredible benefit of stretching aside from physical performance is its ability to ease stress. Our mind and body are so interconnected that if we’re experiencing any sort of emotional stress, our bodies will react to it as well. Often our muscles will become tight, especially around the neck, shoulders and upper back. Making stretching a daily practice, even if it’s for a few minutes right before bed, will help loosen the muscles and make you feel more calm and relaxed.
If the idea of stretching every day seems like a good goal but might be hard to remember, try starting with yoga. Restorative yoga is a form of yoga dedicated to flexibility. It’s all about slowing down and moving through deep stretching positions in order to improve flexibility while at the same time calming the body and mind. Yoga is an incredible addition to any exercise routine because it gives you a chance to be really present, take some deep breaths and appreciate all that your body can do while at the same time improving flexibility. It’s such a gift to be able to break a sweat and move our bodies and we never want to take it for granted.
In the midst of breaking a sweat, in your most favorite ways, remember that stretching is just another way to enhance your performance and overall health. Whether you want to take a few minutes every night to stretch or jump into a weekly restorative yoga class, you’ll be doing your body a favor.