Not all cooldowns are created equal! Use this guide to stretch the muscles that need the most love post-spin, CrossFit, strength training, and more

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
Corbis Images

We get it: Mornings are super busy. And if you manage to get yourself to a fitness studio before work, you've probably signed up for the latest possible class you can manage and still get to the office on time. (Get out of bed with this No-Fail Morning Playlist!)

But if you skip the last few minutes of your class (those crucial cool-down and stretch moments) to be the first one in the shower, you're doing your body a major disservice, fitness experts say. Same goes for ducking out of a post-work class early in order to get home in time to make dinner, or just catch your favorite show.

"Any time you're contracting your muscles, you need to stretch," says Albuquerque-based personal trainer and wellness coach Mindy Caplan. Whatever your favorite way to sweat, here are your essential post-class moves.

After Spin Class or Kickboxing

When you're on a bike, your body is leaning forward, echoing the posture you have throughout the day (hunched over your keyboard, looking down at your cell phone). Boxing classes also have you in a forward-leaning stance. So make sure to counteract that by cooling down with a backward bend, says personal trainer and founder of Minardi Training Jimmy Minardi. Raise your arms so your biceps are by your ears, your arms are parallel to each other, and your palms are facing each other. Lift your arms and upper back up and back, looking backwards, while gripping the floor as much as possible with your feet.

Post-Run

Whether you're running on your own, with a group, or in a treadmill class, happy baby is your post-sweat BFF, says Minardi. That's because it opens your hips, which running can make super tight.

After CrossFit or Intense Lower-Body Work

CrossFit workouts push the big muscles in your butt and legs. To boost circulation and decrease muscle soreness after any workout that puts compression on your lower body, Minardi recommends doing inversions, like the shoulder stand. (Runners will benefit from this one too).

After an Ab Assault

You might not think about stretching your abs, but after a core class you want to stretch the front of your body, your obliques, and your hip flexors, which will help your lower back, says Caplan. Start with a cobra pose and then some lying twists (on your back, let your knees drop to your left while your head turns to the right, and then reverse). Then do a seated forward bend (with your legs in front of you and feet flexed, reach towards your toes).

Post-Strength Training

If your strength workout was upper-body focused, make sure to include chest and shoulder stretches in your cool-down, says Caplan. Try a doorway stretch, like this one-armed version, or a simple chest opener (clasp your hands behind your back and pull your hands down and your shoulder blades together).

Once a Week

If you're a group-fitness regular, try and fit yoga into your routine at least once a week, advises Caplan. You'll build flexibility and strength to help keep you injury-free, and if you choose an athletic-style class, you can even get in a cardio workout. (Need more motivation to get to class? Check out these Ridiculously Hot Guys Doing Yoga.)

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