After a tough cardio session, taking the time for a cooldown helps regulate blood flow, prevent injury, and improve flexibility. Take a few minutes to move through these stretches and give a little love to your tired muscles.
Stretch out tight IT bands with a quick cross-legged stretch:
- Bend in half at the waist and hang over, and cross your left foot behind your right, pressing your left big toe down into the floor.
- Twist your upper body to the left and hold onto your right leg. You should feel a gentle pull on the outside of your right leg. Hold the stretch for a minute.
- Uncross your legs, and switch legs to stretch the other side.
You'll mostly reap the benefits in your chest and shoulders, but this move also releases tension in your hamstrings and lower back:
- Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Bring your arms behind you, and interlace your fingers right below your sacrum (back of your pelvis). Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
- From here, lean your chest forward and lift your hands up overhead as you fold your torso toward your thighs. If you're only concerned with feeling this stretch in your chest and shoulders, then keep your knees bent. To bring this stretch into your hamstrings and lower back, straighten your legs.
- Stay like this for at least 30 seconds, and when you're ready to come out, actively press into your feet, engage your thighs, and slowly lift your torso back up to a standing position. Perform again for another 30 seconds.
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Sore quads will find relief in this move. Just be sure to breathe deep if it feels tough:
- Start off in a high lunge position, with your right foot forward. Then, slowly drop your left knee to the ground.
- Take a few moments to find balance, and once you're stabilized, with your left arm, reach back for your toes on your left foot.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly release your hold on your left foot. Come back to the high lunge position, and then switch sides with your left foot forward. Perform this move on your right quad.
Seated Leg Cradle
Most people aren't sure how to stretch out their glutes, so they're often skipped in a stretching session. Try this seated move after your next workout:
- Sit on your mat cross-legged or with your feet touching each other. Lift up your left leg, and hook your calf over your left arm. Grab onto your feet with your hands for support.
- Slowly lift up your left leg until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hips. You can gently rock your leg from side to side to move the stretch to different parts of the muscle.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
Don't worry about bringing your nose to your toes in Butterfly Pose! Just focus on lengthening your torso, so your hips and lower back gets the stretch they deserve:
- Bend both knees, and bring your feet together.
- Using your hands, open your feet up like a book. Use your muscles to press your knees down toward the floor.
- Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button toward your spine. Relax your shoulders, and gaze either in front of you or toward your feet.
- Stay here for 30 seconds, and then slowly begin to fold forward, drawing your torso toward your legs.
- Keep your hands on your feet, pressing your knees down with your arms, or if you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you.
- Fold forward to increase the intensity, and hold for an additional 30 seconds.
Modified Hurdler Stretch
Finish on a strong note with this relaxing stretch that continues to stretch the hips but also targets tight hamstrings:
- From Butterfly Pose, straighten your left leg, and press the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh.
- Remain seated or, if you're more flexible, fold over your left leg, coming into Head to Knee.
- Try to keep both shoulders parallel with the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, and then do this stretch on the other side for an additional 30 seconds.
After a tough run, this yoga sequence is the perfect way to cool down. By targeting the legs, lower back, and hips, these poses stretch all the areas that need special attention after running. And since the muscles are already warmed up, it's the primetime to work on extending flexibility.
It may be tempting to not cool down after a workout, but it shouldn't be up for debate. The sheer ritual of a cooldown is good for mental clarity because it promotes a healthy sense of accomplishment, but these few minutes of low-intensity exercise also help to support and strengthen muscles, helping prevent injury.
When you skip the stretch after a workout, those muscles that were just working so hard can tighten up, increasing your risk of experiencing an injury. For serious athletes and marathoners, cooling down is even more essential since it helps regulate blood flow throughout the body, bringing it back to a balanced state.
If you're using a programmed workout on a cardio machine, your cooldown will most likely be built into the workout. In this case, all you have to do is make sure you stay on the machine! But if you press "quickstart" from the get-go or you're enjoying the weather outdoors, these tips will help you create a healthy cooldown.
You might want to hop off that treadmill, bike, or elliptical as soon as you finish a tough workout, but those few minutes of lower-intensity exercise that immediately follow are essential. Without that cooldown on the machine, plus additional time stretching, muscles tend to tighten over time, heightening the risk of an injury.
This quick five-minute stretching sequence targets your legs, back, hips, and shoulders to keep those muscles flexible, healthy, and ready to take on your next workout. Just be sure to hydrate after you move through this cooldown sequence!
No matter how pressed for time you are, you should never skip your post-workout cooldown. Taking a few minutes to stretch muscles helps prevent injury, build muscle, and increase flexibility. Here are four cooldown ideas for your workout.
After a bike ride or Spin class: An hour on your bike or in an indoor cycling class can lead to tight hips and hunched shoulders, not to mention tired leg muscles. Work them all out with cooldown stretches like a basic hamstring stretch, and then move onto your quads. Use a sturdy wall, curb, or tree to help with stretches if you are cooling down after an outdoor bike ride. In class, you can use the stationary bike to help you balance while stretching. Get the rest of the postride stretches here.
After a run: Place emphasis on relieving overworked leg muscles and opening tight hips after a long run; these postrun stretching sequences will make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated after your run. Make sure to focus on the lower back, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
After circuit training: You've squatted, lifted, and planked your way through a sweaty routine, and now you need to show your body some love. This ab and cooldown video workout features cooldown stretches at the end that will relieve your legs, back, and arms. Check out the entire workout, or skip to the cooldown at the 5:54 mark.
For everyone: No matter what your choice of fitness, chances are your workout has contributed to tight hips. And sitting in a chair for hours a day at work doesn't help matters! Use this nine-stretch sequence to cool down after a workout and focus on tight hips and an inflexible midsection.