Everyone knows that it’s important to stretch before an intense workout. Stretching before hand helps to prevent your muscles from being pulled and damaged, and increases your range of motion. But did you know that stretching after a workout is just as important? Some unpleasant things happen to your body when you skip post-workout stretching, and here are a few of them.
When you don’t stretch after a workout, your muscles will begin to contract. Sometimes, the pain in your knees and joints can be the result of these muscle contractions. The pain can be lessened and sometimes even avoided altogether, by a few minutes of gentle, post-workout stretching.
Buildup of lactic acid.
Lactic acid is the worst thing that can happen to many avid gym goers. The buildup of lactic acid can be recognized by the painful burning sensation that it causes within the muscles. Excessive lactic acid can be flushed out of the body more quickly by stretching, and without it, the buildup and burning sensation can last a lot longer and are often more intense and bothersome.
Muscles can become imbalanced.
Contracted muscles will stay in their shortened state if they are not sufficiently stretched out after a workout. Certain common movements will lengthen muscles, whereas others will shorten them, and without adequate stretching the muscles can become imbalanced. That is, some will be longer and some will be shorter after a workout, creating an imbalance that puts strain on your joints and decreases your overall range of motion. Imbalanced muscles can also cause pain and discomfort.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of a back spasm, consider yourself lucky. The lower back muscles can start to spasm after a long run or other full-body workout if they aren’t stretched out. Not all runners experience this, but many do. It can be avoided by a few minutes of cool down stretching. Muscle spasms can also be handled with a combination of stretching and over the counter medications that are specifically designed for muscle spasms and soreness.
Increased risk of muscle damage.
The risk of post-workout muscle damage is increased when stretching is neglected. This is because, as mentioned above, your muscles will become stiff and contract, and then be hard to stretch back out. Trying to stretch stiff muscles can cause pain and can even cause the stiff muscle to tear, rendering the muscle useless and requiring time to heal.
Stretching after a workout, regardless of its intensity or length, is never a bad idea. It prevents muscle contractions, releases lactic acid, prevents the muscles from becoming unbalanced, helps you to avoid muscle spasms, and works to protect you against muscle damage. In addition, post-workout stretching also helps to calm you down and improves your mood, as it allows you to connect with your body and focus on any aches and pains that may need to be addressed.