STRETCH & RELAX

After 55 minutes of high-intensity exercise, that last five minutes of stretch can feel insignificant and totally worth skipping to snag a few extra minutes in the shower. But while it doesn’t have the sweat-dripping velocity of cycling, boxing, or rock climbing, stretching, it turns out, just might be the secret to taking your workout to the next level.

 

As exercise routines have become steadily more rigorous (hello, CrossFit and Tough Mudder), with humblebrag Instagrams regularly showcasing blisters and dislocated joints as merit badges, the need for structured recovery is more real than ever. “People turn to cardio for weight loss or cardiovascular conditioning or stress management or to blow off steam, but they don’t realize that if they just do that without stretching, there will be imbalances and asymmetries in the body,” says H.o.Y founder Nadine Marie. Having trained at the prestigious Northern ballet School, Nadine understands the benefits of flexibility and the risks associated with a lack thereof. She says even relatively demure workouts like barre classes are taxing on the body: “I see tons of plantar fasciitis and Achilles problems from bobbing up and down on the balls of the feet.” And the effects of inflexibility are cumulative; long-term tightness of the muscles restricts the flexibility of the joints, ushering in full-body fatigue. Balancing out strenuous activity with stretch is therefore essential in order to ensure that your workout isn’t doing you more harm than good.

 

So how best to take advantage of the crush of classes now available? Nadine advises scheduling stretch sessions directly following high-intensity workouts and carving out time to stretch daily (at home for 10 minutes following a hot shower is good if you can’t make it to a class every day). “The 30 seconds or a minute of stretching at the end of a spin class is really not enough to undo all the tightness from the day,” she explains. And, she points out, there’s another bonus to the practice: “If we keep mobile and supple and lengthened, it’s a way of anti-aging.”