After a long and intense sweat-inducing workout, most of us are ready to book it straight out of the gym — or away from our workout space at home. The vast majority of us make the excuse that we don't have the time to cool down and stretch (don't lie!), but the truth is your body will thank you for those five extra minutes spent doing some stretching exercises.

As the Peloton instructor whose signature phrase in class is "how you do anything is how you do everything," Jess Sims knows that stretching before and after a workout — especially a cycling class — is equally as important as the rest of your workout. Point blank: Yes, you need to give your body some T.L.C. before and after your workout. Sims says you don't need much time to see results. Five minutes before and after will suffice to warm up and cool down your muscles — and your mind.

There's another benefit to stretching besides getting your muscles ready. "A lot of people think that warm-ups are just for the body, but they also help get rid of the rigidity and 'yuck' in the mind," she tells us. "For a cycling class, it's important to mobilize the ankles, warm up the quads and hamstrings, and activate the core — the abs as well as the gluteus medius so that you can get more power from your legs."

And after the ride or workout, it's also important to stretch out those same muscles to prevent any stiffness or injury following your workout. "If you only have five [minutes] — take advantage of those! Something is always better than nothing," she stresses. "Warmups, cooldowns, and stretches equal longevity!"

The beloved Peloton app has a wide variety of different stretching and warmup classes to tack on to your ride or workout (which you can try free for 30 days, even without a bike). Sims has provided her five favorite stretches here, so you can bookmark this story and refer to it every time you workout, whether that be in the gym lifting, on the tread running, or on the bike cycling.

How it works: Add these stretching exercises to the beginning or end of any workout, especially an intense one, like a ride on the bike. According to Sims, stretching before a workout will warm up and loosen your muscles, while stretching after will help your body cool down and prevent stiffness.

You will need: Nothing! (Besides a yoga mat or carpet for comfort.)

1. Half Kneeling Half Moon Stretch

A. Start with the right knee up and left knee down.
B. Squeeze your left butt cheek to light up your hip flexor as you reach toward the ceiling with your left hand, feeling an additional stretch along the entire left side of your back. 

Repeat on the other side.

2. Half Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

A. Start with the right knee up and left knee down.
B. Put one hand on both sides of the right foot as you pull your hips back, trying to get your butt to your left heel. For an additional stretch, peel the toes off the floor to intensify as well as stretch the calf.

Repeat on the other side.

3. Half Kneeling Quad Stretch

A. Start with the right knee up and left knee down. Press your right forearm into your right quad as you use your left hand to reach behind you to grab your left foot.
B. Squeeze the left butt cheek as you tuck the pelvis under, stretching the quad and hip flexor.

Repeat on the other side.

4. 90/90 Stretch

A. Start seated with your knees bent in front of you, hands behind your lower back on the floor. Slowly drop both knees over to the right, forming 90° angles with both knees.
B. Slowly and carefully return back to the center and repeat to the other side. To intensify the stretch, take your hands off of the floor.

Repeat on the other side.

5. Knee Hug Stretch

A. Start seated with your legs fully extended in front of you. Take the right leg, cross it over so that your foot is outside your left leg, and hug it in toward your chest with both arms.
B. Sit forward onto your sitz bone to elongate your spine, imagining you have string attached to the top of your head from the ceiling. You should feel this in your glutes!

Repeat on the other side.

HomeBODIES is our recurring column bringing you beginner-friendly workouts you can do from the comfort of home.

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