Most of us know we should stretch after our workouts. Unfortunately, many of us wind up skipping the post-workout cooldown so we can hop in the shower and get on with our day — ASAP.
Luckily, there's a way to fit in an effective cooldown routine without hanging out on your mat: Stretch out in the shower.
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It may sound silly, but the shower is actually a great spot for a cooldown stretch. "The shower is usually heated and steamy, which makes for the perfect climate to stretch, as your muscles and joints are warmed up," says Lauren Kanski, a NASM-certified personal trainer in New York City. And stretching your muscles while they're still warm minimizes your risk for injury, she adds.
So, if you know you're always in a rush after your workout, plan on squeezing in a quick stretch while you rinse off.
The following cooldown routine from Kanski is perfect for the shower. These simple stretches and exercises will not only help you loosen tense muscles, they also call for minimal space, and are safe for slippery shower floors.
Use caution when performing any stretch or exercise in the shower. Stop immediately if you feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Move 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing
This is a great — not to mention, simple — move to kick-off your cooldown. Taking deep breaths through your diaphragm (your primary breathing muscle) helps bring your heart rate back to its pre-workout level, Kanski says.
- Stand comfortably. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose.
- As your chest expands with air, let the air travel down to your stomach and expand your belly.
- Once you can no longer take in more air, exhale fully through your nose.
- Repeat for 5 breaths.
Move 2: Cactus Pose
Keep that deep breathing going, but add in some gentle movement through the spine with Cactus pose. "I love that [this pose] gets people out of the 'text neck' posture they are in all day by opening them up through their chest," Kanski says.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and lift your arms overhead. Pull your bellybutton toward your spine.
- Take a deep inhale as you stretch your fingertips toward the ceiling.
- As you exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides to create a goal post, opening up through your chest.
- Repeat for 5 breaths.
Move 3: Forward Fold
A classic yoga pose. This move stretches out the hamstrings, calves and hips and brings gentle movement to your spine.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Keeping your knees soft, exhale and bend forward at the hips to let your head hang down toward the shower floor.
- Interlace your forearms or let your arms hang straight. Press into the floor with your heels and sway gentle from side-to-side. Inhale and exhale fully.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
Move 4: Standing Quad Stretch
Stretch out the fronts of your thighs to ease tension from quad-heavy exercises like running, cycling and squats.
- Find balance on one foot and hold onto the side of the shower for added stability. (If you still feel unstable, skip this stretch.)
- Bend the other leg to bring your heel toward your butt and grab your ankle. Gently pull your foot forward to bring your knee back. You should feel a nice stretch in your quad.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Move 5: Hamstring Stretch
Give the backs of your thighs some love, too. This stretch can help loosen up tight hamstrings from running, rowing and deadlifts.
- Begin standing with your feet together. Then, step one foot back about 2 feet.
- Keeping both legs straight, hinge forward at the hips to bring your chest toward the floor. Stop once you feel a gentle stretch in your front hamstring.
- Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Move 6: Calf Raises
"Our calves are usually not given direct attention, but they're very important in everything we do," Kanski says. Stretch and strengthen them with some simple calf raises.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold onto the side of the shower for balance if needed.
- Keeping your knees soft, rise onto the balls of your feet. Squeeze your calf muscles at the top.
- Pause, then lower your heels back down to the floor with control.
- Complete 20 reps.
Move 7: Neck Circles
Hunching over our phones and computers all day can give our necks a beating; and our workouts can, too. "Oftentimes our neck and upper trap muscles will compensate in pulling or pressing movements, so the neck can be very stiff," Kanski says. A simple exercise like neck circles can help relieve some of that stiffness.
- Slowly and gently rotate your head to make a circle in one direction. Only rotate as far as comfortable. Let your eyes follow the direction of your head.
- Complete 10 circles in one direction before repeating in the opposite direction.