One thing that I do religiously before and after working out is getting in a good stretch. If I ever did any workout before, I wouldn’t stretch. Now I know I’d be in trouble (that is, incredibly sore and potentially hurt) afterward if I didn’t.
I owe so much of this new love of working out to Chelsea Piers, the gym I joined back in October. It’s the first time in, well, my entire life where I’m in a good rhythm of working out. A huge element of that is feeling comfortable in the gym, loving every class I’ve taken, and having super supportive trainers along the way. My favorite class is “Intro to Strength Training” with Susannah. Because I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what my routine is, I asked Chelsea Piers (and Susannah) if we could put together a few shoots to show some of the stuff we do in the gym. Of course, I think there’s nothing like being in the actual class. I need the personal accountability to show up more than anything, but everything can be done on your own!
Today I’m sharing the stretches we do to warm up before and to cool down after working out.
I always get to the gym a little early so that I can warm up on the treadmill. I set the treadmill at a brisk pace and walk for about thirty minutes. Twenty of those minutes are before the class and then ten minutes with everyone at the beginning of class. We use that time, of course, to warm up but also to discuss how the previous workout went, if anyone has injuries/soreness, and what we have in store for the day. (We also do a little chit-chatting, which I love, haha.)
THE WARM UP:
We do six warm-up stretches along one side of the gym, I’d say, about 30 feet in each direction. It’s one move up and then another move down. When I first started, I was always following the veterans, and now I lead the group more often than not. (Big promotion.) These stretches are amazing for getting your blood flowing and heart pumping. Even though it’s “just the warm-up,” my heart rate always goes up a bit! It’s a great signal for my body that we’re getting ready to work out!
The photos are all going one direction for lighting purposes and to make sure we weren’t photographing other members.
#1: Walking up the first direction, take a step and pull one leg up and into your stomach. Then take another step pulling the other leg up and into your stomach. Continue the length of your warm-up area.
#2: Going back in the other direction, it’s time for the toy soldiers. As you step, kick one leg out straight, reaching to touch your toes. Release your foot to the ground. Take a step and kick your opposite leg up, reaching to touch your toes. Continue the length of your warm-up area.
#3: Continuing back up, take a step pulling your foot back and up, extending the opposite arm in the air. Take a step, pulling your other foot back and up while you extend the opposite arm in the air. Repeat along the length of your warm-up area.
#4: (This one is my favorite!) Going back down, take a step pulling your leg up and in at a 90-degree angle with both hands. Step and repeat with the other leg. Repeat along the length of your warm-up area.
#5: Step and lunge along the length of the warm-up area.
#6: Instead of facing forward, do a wide squat with one foot “up-track” and the other “down-track.” As you push yourself back up, turn your body to face the other direction and squat again. Repeat until you’ve returned to the other end.
THE COOL DOWN
By the end of our workout, I’m so ready to stretch again! My body is usually already aching, and I need to slowly ease out of work out mode. Stretching feels amazing!!! There are a ton of different stretches you can do at the end of the workout. Here are some of the best ones we do together in the class. Even if you haven’t worked out, these are great to do at the end of a long day of sitting at a desk.
Susannah’s favorite is the straddle. I’m terrible at it, but it does feel good to stretch out the hamstrings, especially after a day when we focus on the legs. Start by leaning forward, bringing your chest down to the ground as you can. (I don’t have a lot of flexibility here!) Then lean over to one side, reaching the opposite arm over your head and towards the foot. Repeat on the other side.
Child’s pose is never a bad idea. Bring your toes together and spread your knees out towards the edges of your mat. Lean forward over your legs stretching your arms outward. I could stay like this for hours!
The next stretch is my absolute favorite. It’s the best!!!! While in child’s pose, thread one arm under the other. Repeat on the other side.
For the above stretch, start on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Press up as you can.
Above is pigeon. I’m terrible at it, and it’s one of my least favorite stretches, but it is a great hip opener. The best way to get into this pose is to do a downward dog, lifting one leg, so you’re in a three-legged dog and then swinging that leg under your body, placing it on the mat with your leg bent. For a deeper stretch, you can lean your body over your front leg. (Good luck… ha.) Then switch to your other leg.
This one is particularly good after doing an old fashioned toe touch. Hug one leg into your body and then repeat with the other leg.
The next batch of stretches are ones I recommend doing every day, workout or not. You can do them at your desk– and you should. Being on a computer all day is not good, and these will all help you open back up! The first one is pictured above. Simply lace your hands behind your head stretching your elbows back to open up your shoulders.
Then, shown below, swing your arm in front of your body. And then repeat on the other side.
Another great shoulder opener. Lace your hands behind your back and pull. Ooooh, feel that glorious stretch!!!! Seriously so good for people at a desk on their computers all day.
Lace your hands and stretch your arms above your head for more.
Photos by Courtney Ann Photography
Finally, reach one hand behind your head and use your other hand to push your elbow. Repeat on the other side. And then twist your hand, so your fingers are facing you and pull up for a little stretch.
Do you have a favorite stretch for before or after working out? Or even just after being at your desk all day?