Exercise recipe, part 3: Flexibility training
There’s been a lot of discussion in the last decade about whether stretching is beneficial, and when is the most optimal time to stretch – before exercise, after, during? Experts seem to agree that it is better and less injurious to stretch muscles that are warm. So experienced trainers and group exercise instructors who want you to stretch out your muscles at the beginning of a workout, should have you “warm up” by getting on a machine or marching in place or doing some type of movements for about 3-5 minutes, before stretching gently. Your muscles will then be pliable, rather than tight as you stretch them out. That being said, most experts also agree that saving the stretching for the end of your workout makes most sense.
If you do have sore muscles the day after a vigorous exercise routine, warm up and then stretch out those sore muscles gently. Remember to stretch opposing muscles. If you stretch your biceps, stretch your triceps. If you stretch your legs, remember to address the large muscles in your thighs, as well as the smaller calf muscles, and even the muscles in your ankles.
Using a foam roller and gently rolling it over sore muscles can also help to reduce inflammation and soreness. Most experts recommend rolling the foam back and forth for about 30-60 seconds. This effort is especially helpful if you feel a knot in a muscle. You can combine stretching with use of the foam roller after a workout.