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Stretching Before, After Workout Pays Off

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Taking time to stretch can do a lot to ease muscle aches and pains. It helps you relax and combat stress.

Dr. Mulvihill explains why stretching is also important when working out.

Stretching makes you more aware of your body. It makes it easier to move and keeps your muscles ready to handle sudden movements that happen every day.

Getting in a routine is easy. Here's how.

Stretching is good for you. Besides being extremely relaxing, it lengthens muscle fibers, improves range of motion and can help counteract the demands of work.

Eric Harr/ Fitness expert: "Stretching shouldn't be viewed as this distinct regimented thing. It should be a relaxing way to transition from work to exercise."

Fitness expert Eric Harr says you should spend a few minutes stretching before your workout, to loosen up. But don't stretch cold.

Eric Harr: "If you stretch a cold muscle, it's like chewing gum. You stretch cold chewing gum, it will break. You stretch a warm piece of chewing gum, it will stretch."

After a spin class at the San Francisco Bay Club, our muscles are plenty warm and ready for stretching.

"We just want to loosen up those muscles so that they don't tie up on us overnight."

Harr says never stretch to the point of pain.

"You never want to push your muscle to the point of, 'Whoa, that hurts.' You should always feel sort of a comfortable easing into the stretch, comfortably challenge yourself," he says.

And don't forget to breathe.

"You'll feel the muscle elongate when you breahte out and exhale into the stretch," Harr says.

He says it's easy to fit stretching into your exercise routine, without adding much time.

"So five minutes before, five to ten minutes after you're done. Three days a week," he recommends.

Allen Gonzalez says he has a new appreciation for stretching.

"Not too often, but it does help me. I'm getting a little older now, and am starting to feel things in my back and legs now. So I'm really beginning to enjoy it," he says.

Eric says you should hold a stretch for only a few seconds. After that, a stretched muscle automatically tightens to keep from tearing.

Hold a stretch for too long and you've got a tug-of-war with your muscle, which can lead to micro-tears or trauma.

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