Mix stretching and massage to help your muscles recover [Infographic]

Stretching and massage are vital for muscle recovery.

It's hard to keep up a consistent workout schedule when you're constantly waiting for your sore muscles to heal. Many athletes rely on over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like Aleve, and while those can reduce inflammation, they don't promote muscle healing. In fact, inflammatory drugs can actually slow down the healing process. Massage, however, not only reduces pain, it can also speed up muscle recovery and leave you ready for your next workout. Using a personal massager on your hamstrings, quads, calves and feet can help you recover quickly and may even promote a longer running stride. After all, healthy muscles allow you to perform at your peak.

Stretching is another important part of the muscle recovery process. Many people warm up before a workout, but forget to cool down with a stretching session. Stretching can improve flexibility, give your joints and muscles a full range of motion, and provide you with an overall better workout. You should be stretching all major muscle groups that your activity involves. For instance, if you're a runner and want to focus on getting a stronger stride, you'll want to concentrate on muscles in the legs. Here are a few stretches to do after each workout:

Moji infographic on stronger stride.Target the appropriate muscles to enhance your stride.

Hamstrings

Loosening up your hamstrings can help give you a longer stride and propel you forward.

Lie on your back with one leg bent and the foot flat on the floor. Wrap a towel or rope around the other foot, and gently raise it straight up into the air toward the ceiling. Only raise your leg high enough until you start to feel a comfortable stretch. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, lower the leg and repeat on the other side. Do this exercise about 10 times on each leg.

Quads

It's important to keep your quad muscles strong and limber in order to achieve the best running stride possible.

Standing up straight, grab one foot and lift your heel back up toward your rear to give your quad a nice gentle stretch. Make sure to keep both knees in line with one another, and keep your shoulders back. Hold for a few seconds then repeat on the other leg.

Calves

Stretching your calves is essential because gaining more flexibility in your calves and Achilles tendons will help you push off the ground more effectively and even lower your risk of straining those particular muscles.

Sit down with your legs straight in front of you. Place your hands around the balls of your feet. If you can't yet reach that far, wrap a rope or a towel around your foot and gently pull your toes in toward your shin. Exhale as you go deeper into the stretch, and hold it for about three seconds. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times.

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