I’ve been running every morning for years, but I have yet to shake my worst habit: pushing my workout back as late as possible to snag a few extra minutes of sleep or a cup of coffee, instead of using that time to get a proper stretch. While I’ve managed to avoid injury to this point, I know it’s probably something I should work on.
But whether you should stretch before or after you exercise (or both) really depends on the workout. “If you’re doing something like Pilates or yoga, a warmup is an integral part of these types of exercises, so go ahead and just begin the activity,” Corey Phelps, an NASM-certified personal trainer in Washington DC, told POPSUGAR. “If you’re running, playing tennis, or lifting weights, the answer is entirely different. It’s not so much a question of how long you should stretch, but rather, what kind of stretching you should do.”
When lifting, running, or doing any workout that includes explosive movement, you’ll want to start with dynamic stretches, such as bodyweight squats, walking lunges, and high knees. These stretches mimic movements you’ll do during your workout, increasing blood flow to the muscles and lubricating the joints — which helps prevent injury, while improving your performance.
After your workout, you should spend some time doing static stretches, like toe touches or a seated hamstring stretch. Corey suggested holding each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, which helps improve pliability and flexibility in the muscle tissue and joints. When you commit to it, a stretching routine can go a long way toward easing the muscle soreness that comes with working out, so you can get back to it sooner.