Whether you’re running, rock climbing or rollerblading for exercise, there’s one step you don’t want to skip.

And it’s one many people move right past: stretching.

Take it from Nichole Rae, a fitness and lifestyle coach based in Colorado Springs, who says stretching is just as important as nutrition or strength training.

“And so many people bypass it,” she said. “They’re just like, ‘What’s the point?’”

That kind of question makes Rae, 45, shake her head. Along with helping people build healthy eating and exercise habits, Rae says a “huge part” of her coaching business is teaching people how to stretch and the value of it.

“I tell almost every single person I talk to how important it is,” she said. “It’s one way to make ourselves better.”

That goes for the body and mind. Benefits of stretching, she says, includes quicker recovery between workouts, reducing the risk for injury, better posture, managing pain patterns and improving sleep.

The biggest benefit of stretching, Rae says, is reducing stress.

“We, as people, are stressed to the freakin’ max,” she said. “So most people don’t take any time to stretch or breathe. They find it overwhelming to carve out 10 minutes for themselves for that.”

But those 10 minutes could change your mood that day and your health forever.

One of Rae’s most popular services is “stretch therapy,” which helps people learn safe ways to improve range of motion.

“Mobility and flexibility should be a part of any well-rounded fitness program,” reads Rae’s website, www.nicholeraecoaching.com.

It’s so important to her that Rae often offers a free “Rest & Recovery” stretch series on her website.

And the topic of stretching appears to be becoming a bigger part of the wellness industry. Specifically, Rae says myofascial stretch therapy “has even become a bit of a fad” within the last five years.

During these sessions, Rae will carefully manipulate, lengthen, realign and reorganize a client’s fascia, which is essentially the body’s connective tissue.

“It’s probably a third of my practice and it could be my whole practice,” she said. “Because people love it so much.”

Rae brings a holistic approach to her clients, something she had to learn for herself.

“I call myself a coach, not just a trainer, because I’m bringing so many things into it,” she said. “Part of that is my life experience.”

Rae’s journey includes getting sober at 32, when she weighed 300 pounds and, health-wise, she says she was so sick she was close to death. This was after Rae spent several years as a personal trainer in the Denver area.

She left that career to focus on getting clean and healthy. When she returned to the fitness world, she wanted to do it her own way.

As she says online, “My mission is to educate and empower others by providing sane and sustainable solutions to exercise, diet and mindset.”

“I do it because I love movement,” Rae said. “But deeper than that, I do it because of the gratification and joy that comes when I help someone restore their health.”

Personally, Rae’s routine includes eating healthy (not dieting), going on walks or hikes and lifting weights. And, yes, stretching or foam rolling is part of her everyday checklist.

“I always say, it’s not about how much you’re doing or how intense,” she said. “It’s about consistency. If you can only make five minutes for it, you can still be consistent.”

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