So you’ve decided to start working out for the first time, or maybe you already exercise enough for maintenance, but you’re ready to take your cardio or resistance training workout to the next level. Exercise feels great, and you’ve already seen the benefits. Your body is leaner, you’re more alert, your outlook is brighter, and you sleep better at night.
Maybe you stretch lightly before heading out on a run, but should you also be stretching before you begin your resistance training? And what about stretching in general—Should you start your day with a few minutes of yoga whether you plan to work out later or not?
The simple answer is yes. Stretching and yoga are excellent ways to improve circulation throughout the body and maximize the benefits of any healthy routine. A few minutes of yoga in the morning can help you face the day with a positive outlook, and the benefits to your breathing and posture can stay with you and help you stay energized all day long. Stretching in the morning can also set your day on a positive path in unconscious ways. A few minutes of focus on body and health can subtly steer you toward healthier decisions (like taking the stairs) for the rest of the day.
Intense stretching before a workout can also be beneficial, but bear in mind that muscle tissue is dense and has a unique consistency that can sometimes be compared to taffy. It helps to warm the tissue and boost circulation before stretching vigorously. Avoid tugging too abruptly on cold muscles, since this will limit the benefits of your stretch and cause miniscule tears that may take time to heal. Instead, do a few light movements first within a comfortable range of motion, or take a light jog to warm your muscles before leaning fully into your stretch.