For many people, stretching is just a necessary evil of fitness—one that you try to skimp on whenever you can. You know you're supposed to do it, but still, somehow it's the thing you always "forget" to do and decide you'll get to later (and then never do). All it takes, though, is a couple of minutes of stretching to reap the long-term benefits of increased mobility and range of motion, both of which will help you perform exercises properly and ultimately reduce your risk of injury.
Like many people, the only way I'll actually remember to stretch is if I do it immediately after I'm done exercising. I just know that I won't take the time to carve out a separate stretch session, so I tack it onto the end of my workouts. And there's good reason to do it then. For one, it simply feels good to stretch a muscle you've just been contracting during exercise. For another, it's better to stretch when your muscles are warm. 48—increased blood flow in the muscle tissues makes them more flexible. Plus, stretching is an essential part of a cooldown session, which you should do after any cardiovascular workout because it helps your heart rate return to normal in a slow and controlled way. Stopping exercise abruptly can interfere with your circulation, and you can end up feeling lightheaded or even pass out.
To help make it a little easier to squeeze stretching into your routine, we asked Callie Gullickson, a certified personal trainer and coach at Tone House in New York City, to demonstrate her favorite lower-body stretches. Feel free to do them right after a lower-body workout if that's what you prefer, or save them for whenever you can fit some flexibility work into your day.