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With the advent and newfound boom in popularity of online and virtual fitness, workout routines have shifted from primarily IRL to workout-from-home, and studios across the globe are adapting to continue to offer the same physical fitness regimens their members are used to. There has been no better time to prioritize exercise in our daily lives, both for physical and emotional reasons. With so many more studios now recording and streaming online and virtual workouts, people can take advantage of their offerings at home (Hint: you don't have to just book local, change your location to anywhere you'd like and explore classes all over the world!). But before you move the coffee table and roll out the mat, there’s something you should remember: stretching.
Ah yes. Stretching. For many of us (though we’d never say it out loud) stretching before and after working out feels a bit like that pile of peas your mom made you eat as a kid: you know it’s good for you, but do I have to? The answer, I’m afraid, is yes—and even more so if you’re working out at home. Here are some best practices to help you prevent injury and make sure you’re getting the most of your incredibly valuable workouts.
Remember: any workout—even one done in your living room—is still a workout. If you’re about to do a 45-minute virtual class, don’t just give yourself 45 minutes. You need to give yourself time to arrange your space, get your water, and get your mind right before hitting play or joining that live stream. But you also need to give yourself time to get your body right too, and that brings us to…
Wait, what about stretching? Conventional wisdom dictates that you should stretch your muscles before beginning your physical activity, but mounting research is telling us that may not be such a great idea. Stretching your cold, stiff muscle fibers before they’re warmed up can actually hurt them. And because we're spending so much time at home, it’s likely our poor muscle fibers are tighter now than they've been in a long time.
If you’re following along with a live stream or on-demand workout, there will likely be some sort of instructor-led warm-up. That said, don’t assume that your virtual workout will provide exactly the kind of warm-up that you personally need. Without the trainer right there to keep you accountable and check your form, it’s super important to take steps to protect yourself and ensure you’re warmed up enough to begin.
According to McAlister Training co-owner and head trainer Michael McAlister, “Warming up is as important, if not more important, than the workout itself. Even from home, I encourage clients to warm-up just like they would at our studio. Before every class, I ask clients to foam roll, do hip lifts, and perform trunk rotations as a pre-warm-up. Then, we’ll warm-up together on-screen.”
So before reaching for those toes, spend a few minutes getting your blood moving to the areas you are going to stretch and exercise. A few other great ideas for some gentle (but effective) warm-ups include:
- High knees (or run in place)
- Holding a plank
- Air squats
Once you’re nice and warm, and maybe breathing a little heavier…
Properly stretching your muscles helps keep them long and flexible, improving your range of motion during the coming workout and protecting muscles and joints from potential injury like sprains and strains. But as important as stretching is, you can injure yourself just as easily doing it incorrectly as you can by skipping it entirely.
Enter your stretches slowly, and don’t overstretch to the point of pain. You should feel a satisfying pull, but if it hurts, you’ve gone too far. Combine static stretching—where you find your stretch and hold it for 30 seconds or more—with dynamic stretches like “cat-cow” where you move fluidly through a range of controlled motions. Feel free to concentrate on an area longer if you know you’re about to work that area out intensively or if you feel a lot of tightness there. And please, don’t bounce in your stretch—just stick with smooth, steady movements to avoid injuring yourself before you’ve even begun your workout.
During the workout, pay attention to areas of tightness/sensitivity you noticed during your stretching session (or any new ones you discover). Don’t “push through the pain” in problem areas or extend your muscles and joints past their natural range of motion. Basically, if it feels wrong, it is wrong. There’s absolutely no shame in modifying a move to protect yourself.
“If you’re attending live stream classes at the studio you regularly go to, reach out to your instructor(s), and let them know what you’re experiencing. Just like in a regular class, they’ll be happy to chat with you on the phone or through FaceTime, individually, to provide tips to modify and recover properly,” says McAlister.
Once you've counted down the final seconds of your workout and completed your last rep, you may be (justifiably) tempted to lay on the floor in a sweaty heap for a while before getting up to shower and carry on with your day. But do that and you’ll miss a huge opportunity to improve your overall mobility and flexibility.
As soon as your workout is over, cool down with some walking to bring your heart rate down in a controlled manner. Once you’ve caught your breath, it’s time to stretch again—and this one’s at least as important as the first. Think about it: your muscles are about as warm as they’re ever going to get, which makes it the perfect opportunity to work on conditioning those muscles and joints. Stretching can help lengthen and soothe your pumped-up muscles, which are now in a more contracted state after your workout.
Plus, stretching is just a nice closing ritual for ending a workout. It allows you to decompress after the physical demands you just placed on your body and gives you a moment of calm reflection before changing gears.
Just like working out, stretching only reveals its true potential when you do it consistently. If you’re inflexible now, you got that way over a long period of time—and that means it’s going to take time to improve it. You can’t expect a single high-quality stretch sesh to undo months or years of tightness. Stick with a good pre- and post-workout stretch routine, and one day you’ll notice those toes aren’t quite so far away, and your back doesn’t hurt so much when you do that one thing anymore.
Right now, a lot of people are re-evaluating what “normal” means for them, and many of them are finding ways to use this difficult time for self-improvement. Virtual, at-home workouts are a blessing, giving us ways to stay active and stay connected with our favorite studios and trainers (or try new ones!). But remember, you can protect yourself while you push yourself—you just might have to stretch yourself a bit.
The last few months have posed quite the challenge for fitness junkies all over the world. What used to be as simple as waking up early to go to your favorite sunrise yoga class or hitting the gym after work to maintain physical fitness has unfortunately come to an abrupt halt. For most of us, our fitness routines have been put to the test as we learn to embrace this “new normal” of WOFH (working out from home).
Even though COVID-19 has forced us to change up how we get a sweat sesh in, we’ve also been presented with a great opportunity to redefine the way we commit to our wellness routines. Luckily, the simplicity modern technology affords us these days gives us a ton of options to stay fit and healthy right in the comfort of our own homes.
Here’s how you can use the Mindbody app to freshen up your workouts:
While you may be missing out on the in-studio experience (trust me, I get it!), the Mindbody app enables you to take a class from any studio, no matter the distance. Whether you’re fixing to keep it local and check out places within your area or interested in a virtual workout 500 miles away, your options are endless. With 91% of group fitness studios making their classes available through live stream or video-on-demand, you can work out at any studio of your choosing.
Finding a virtual class in your area or in another city is simple with the Mindbody app. Simply log into the app and access virtual classes directly from the home screen.
Whether you’re fixing to keep it local or interested in a virtual workout 500 miles away, your options are endless.
With virtual classes dominating the workout scene right now, you have more access to different types of fitness classes than ever before. Maybe you live in a town where certain workouts aren’t available quite yet—or maybe you tend to be “set in your old ways” when it comes to your fitness choices and you never can get around to trying something new. I’ll be the first to admit there are certain classes I may have avoided in the past (I'm looking at you, HIIT) because I’m more of a yoga fan and enjoy being able to go at my own pace and take breaks when I need to.
We all get in our own head when we’re experiencing something for the first time—especially when it comes to a workout class. However, being in the privacy of your own home, you have the luxury of setting your own pace and taking rest/water breaks when you need to. Plus, tons of studios have Intro Offers for new clients, so you can try out new studios and classes for less.
You know what they say—variety is the spice of life. Well, the same can be said about your workout routine. If you’re looking for another way to mix up your fitness journey, try taking a class from a different studio or teacher than you normally would. Not sure if you’ll vibe with a certain studio or teacher? No problem. You can learn about a studio and get to know their teachers all within the Mindbody app.
Here’s a fun tip: Are your virtual game nights or weekly House Party check-ins with friends getting stale? A fun way I’ve been staying connected with friends during quarantine is by jumping into classes my friends have on their weekly rotation—whether they live in another state or just down the street.
Even though the in-studio experience feels like an activity of the distant past, the Mindbody app makes it easy to stick to your fitness goals, stay sane, and support your favorite studios, too. With the ability to browse and book virtual classes anywhere, anytime, you can find the right workout for you whenever you need it. And let’s be honest, a good sweat is something we all REALLY need right now.
Ready for some yoga at home or see why virtual HIIT is a hit? Click here to book a virtual workout.