Stretching should be an important part of every workout because it warms your muscles up and helps get them ready for exercise. You can also try these simple stretches throughout the day to give yourself a little boost. Remember that stretching is a very individual thing. Some people are naturally more flexible than others, so work to improve your own flexibility and try not to compare yourself to those around you.
Did you know that stretching:
- Increases your blood flow to all areas of your body
- Increases the range of motion of your joints
- Can make you more flexible
- Reduces muscle tension, which can help you relax
- Helps warm up and ready the body for exercise
- Decreases risk of developing injuries and muscle soreness
- Stretch to the point of tension (not pain) and hold it. Do not bounce or strain. Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- Do not hold your breath.
- Make sure to stretch the muscles you are going to be using during your workout.
- Stretch lightly before your workout as part of your warm-up. Stretch more aggressively after your workout to increase flexibility.
- Recognize differences from person to person. Some people will always be naturally more flexible than others, but everyone can improve their flexibility. Don't be discouraged in the beginning if you can't touch your nose to your knee!
Try these stretches before and after your workout *:
While seated on the ground, bend one knee and place the bottom of your foot of that leg against the inside thigh of the straight leg. Slowly bend forward at the hips, reaching toward the foot of the straight leg with arms outstretched and head held up. Repeat on opposite side.
Very slowly roll your head in a half circle from left to right. Repeat in the other direction.
Standing calf stretch
Stand with your feet together and parallel. Step forward with one foot so that your feet are approximately 30-60 centimetres apart. Gently shift your weight onto your front leg, bend your knee, and keep your back leg straight and your back toes forward. You can rest your hands on your front leg for stability. Repeat with other leg.
Upper body stretches (can be done standing or sitting)
- Interlace your fingers behind your back. Slowly turn your elbows inward as you straighten and lift your arms.
- With arms overhead, hold elbow of one arm with the other hand. Gently pull your elbow as you bend sideways from hips. Repeat with other arm.
- Interlace fingers above your head. With palms facing upward, exhale and push arms slightly back and up toward the ceiling.
Lower body stretches
- Stand in front of a wall and lean on it with forearms, rest your head on your hands. Place your left leg a few inches away from the wall and your right leg about a foot away from the wall. Keep your front leg bent and your back leg straight with the heel flat on the ground. Slowly move hips forward until you feel a stretch in the lower part of the back (straight) leg. Switch legs.
- Same stretch as above, but instead of keeping the back leg straight, slowly bend it, still keeping the heel flat. This gives a lower stretch, good for the Achilles tendon.
- Sit with right leg straight, left leg bent so that sole of left foot is resting next to the inner thigh of straightened leg. Lean slightly forward from hips and stretch hamstrings of straightened leg. Switch legs.
- Stand facing a wall. Brace yourself by leaning left hand against wall. Bend back left leg and hold top of left foot with right hand and gently pull heel toward buttocks. Switch legs.
* Before embarking on this exercise program, please consult your family physician.