Stretching after a workout can easily become a neglected practice. After all, you’ve finished the hard part and you’re ready to move on with your day. But cooling down your muscles is important after exercise—no matter how vigorous the routine. The few minutes you spend stretching allows your heart rate to slow and your body to recover properly. It’s safer to stretch when your muscles are already warm and pliable, and giving yourself a chance to reach (and even reflect on a job well done) simply feels good.
Before you hit the showers, try these soothing stretches—you’ll only need a few minutes to complete the set.
Eases tension in your hamstrings and hips
Place the back of a sturdy chair against a wall, so it won’t move (or find a secure bench at the gym). Standing about two feet away from it, place your right foot up on the seat, keeping your foot flat, knees soft and hands on your hips. Leave your left foot flat on the floor as you shift your weight forward to stretch the front hip. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Opens up your chest
Stand facing an open doorway. Place your palms flat on either side of the frame at ear level. Keep your elbows bent and eyes gazing forward. Inch your feet forward until you feel the stretch in your chest and arms. Hold for 30 seconds.
Loosens your neck
Stand or sit up straight. Place your right hand on top of your head and gently tilt your head to the right, lowering your right ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Overhead Arm Stretch
Soothes your triceps
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders relaxed. Extend your right arm to the ceiling, bend your elbow and place your right hand toward the middle of your back with your palm against your body. Place your left hand on your right arm, just above the elbow and apply light pressure to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Extends your quadriceps
Lie on your right side on a mat or the floor, keeping your legs extended and your body in a straight line. Bend your right arm and rest your head on your bicep. Bend your left knee so that your foot moves toward your left buttock. Inhale and grab that foot (or ankle) with your left hand while keeping your spine neutral. Exhale and gently pull your left foot and lower leg up and back (toward your tailbone), keeping your thighs together. Be sure to keep your left knee pointing toward your other foot. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Remember: You can improve your flexibility with time. Stretch your muscles enough to feel results, but not so much that you’re pushing beyond your limits.