Name a more satisfying moment than when there’s 5-10 minutes left in your workout class and the instructor announces: “Alright, let’s cool down with a stretch.” Stretching signals the end of a challenging, sweat-inducing workout while also reminding you of how much you accomplished during the past hour. It’s a sweet, relaxing moment that allows us to breathe and really notice how our body feels after putting it through a particularly grueling workout. But unfortunately, it’s also something we tend to totally take advantage of. From personal experience, I know that I can sometimes be too impatient for the stretching portions of class and often half-ass them, itching to mutter the word “namaste” so I can get home and watch some Netflix in bed. But while it’s not exactly the most exciting part of class, that doesn’t make it any less important — in fact, there are many benefits to stretching that we don’t even realize or understand.
Keep reading as we debunk all the misconceptions you probably have about stretching — and hopefully convince you to enjoy those last few moments of your workout.
1. You should always stretch before a workout.
Does anyone remember the days of gym class and after school sports when the coach would make everyone participate in a pre-practice stretching routine to warm up the muscles and prevent injury? Apparently, this practice is a total myth. Studies have shown that pre-workout stretches definitely aren’t necessary or even that beneficial. While some research has suggested that stretching can even worsen performance due to the muscles being too loose, this claim hasn’t been totally backed by science. But, stretching is a great way to wind down the body after a workout (see below for more on that). If you’re a gymnast or dancer and find that stretching helps warm up the muscles for complicated moves, then go for it! Otherwise, save the stretching as a post-class recovery tool.
2. The main benefit of stretching is to become more flexible.
Stretching actually has a ton more benefits than just improving flexibility. It eases tension in the body, making it a great stress reliever. It also increases circulation in the body, leads to a better posture and improves your workout performance during class. Perhaps most importantly, stretching after your workout can prevent injuries and pulled muscles. It’s actually a vital part of your fitness routine that can improve your health inside and outside of class.
3. The only classes that incorporate stretching are barre, Pilates and yoga.
Maybe this used to be the case, but c’mon — it’s 2019 and there’s a class for everything these days. First of all, nearly every workout class will incorporate some form of stretching during those final few minutes, including cardio and strength training. There are many different types of stretching, so you’re just likely to experience different types for each genre of class. You may just be experiencing more stretches throughout classes that focus more on flexibility, like barre, Pilates and yoga. There are even classes that focus solely on stretching your body — just search using the ClassPass app to find them!
4. It’s NBD to skip the stretching portion of your class.
We know how tempting it can be to skip the last few minutes of class to grab a spot in the shower line or rush home to catch a train, but stretching is a vital part of every class that truly shouldn’t be missed. Plus, it’s totally disruptive to the instructor and your classmates when you start packing up your things during what is supposed to be a peaceful and quiet moment for everyone else. Those extra few minutes aren’t going to make much of a dent in your day, we promise; just consider it a form of self-care and enjoy the stretch!