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Posted Sep 22 2011 8:14pm
Regardless of whether you workout daily - run, swim, walk or spend your time at a desk or sitting in a car, stretching SHOULD be part of  your daily routine!  I am such a big believer in stretching.  I am known for plopping down on the den room floor while my family is watching TV and cover a wide range of stretches for any and all sore spots and mucscles.  Even if I am not sure, I love the feel of a good stretch.  And, as I get a bit older I know I need the flexibility work. I consider it one of the "exercise sins" to complete a workout without stretching - I can't imagine!  In fact, when I am teaching a class and a participant has to leave early (and I know there is a life outside of exercise class!) I feel my muscles tighten as they walk out the door with no thought to their tired, contracted muscles.  Just take a minute and stretch those hardworking muscles back out!  They will thank you later, as will the joints surrounding the muscles. 
This odd looking photo shows me starting to stretch after a treadmill and weights workout.  I am starting to stretch my hamstrings by scooting my bottom up to a wall and stretching my legs out against the wall.  When this feels good, I began a deeper hamstring stretch by wrapping a towel around the ball of one foot and pulling it toward my body.  Oooh, the stretch goes from the heel all the way to my bottom . . . good stuff!  (I did not take a photo of this as folks were beginning to look at me funny -and it's not as easy as you would think, but it is described with more detail below).
Here are FIVE really good stretches that can be done anywhere, anytime and are really effective.
1. The extended warrior stretch

I love this stretch!  Not only while doing yoga, but anytime.  It stretches completely down one side through obliques to the hip while getting the opposite inner thigh.  It feels really good after a workout, while warming up or just to get out the “kinks” from sitting, driving or to relieve soreness.

Technique: Standing with feet apart, turn your left foot in and right foot out. Reach your arms out. Lean to the right, bending your right knee so your left leg goes straight. Touch your right elbow to your right thigh, and lift your left arm above your head. The left side of your body should form a straight line from ankle to fingers. Return to starting position; repeat on the other side.

2. The seated glute stretch

For runners and walkers, stretching the gluteus maximus (butt muscles) improves flexibility and can help prevent injuries. If you have ever let the muscles get tight around the hip joint you know the pain!  That’s your piriformis screaming at you!  I like to do this stretch any and all the time.  I always use it after working out, especially if the workout included squats and lunges (and we all know that’s normally the case!)  I typically do this lying down and have the legs up over my hips in a number 4 position and like to rock my legs side to side to get that extra glute stretch.

Technique: Sit on a chair; bring one ankle up onto the knee of your other leg. Lean forward, keeping your back straight, and you should immediately feel the stretch in the gluteus maximus. Hold for several seconds to give the muscle time to relax so that you can go deeper into the stretch.Continue stretching deeper on that side then switch sides

3. "Spiderman" lunges

These lunges stretch your groin and adductors, the small muscles along the inside of the tops of your legs all the way down the thighs. This stretch helps improve your flexibility and although you may start off stiff, you will feel yourself relaxing into it and, if available, can go deeper by bringing your elbows down to the floor. 

Technique: On hands and toes, tighten abs ; lift the left foot and bring it up toward left hand. Right leg stayes extended behind you. (Beginners should go halfway between the arm and the waist. As mobility increases, move foot up to the hand.) Hold for two seconds. Return to the start and stretch right leg forward. Complete six full sets.
4. Hamstring stretch  My FAVORITE and necessary STRETCH!

You should stretch your hamstrings—tendons that run along the backs of your thighs—every day. “Your posture is dependent on it,” says Tracy Hagan, a trainer and yoga instructor in Regina. Because we have more weight up front than men, women’s bodies tend to lean forward slightly, and that puts a strain on the lower back muscles. And the pelvis acts like a bridge between the lower back muscles and the hamstrings. Lengthening your hamstrings by stretching them regularly means they’ll pull on your lower back less, improving posture and reducing back pain.

AND, it just feels really good!!  I absolutely NEVER end a workout without stretching my hamstrings!  If yours ever get tight you will know why - it is not pleasant or fun!

Technique:  Sit on the floor and, holding a towel with both hands, slip it under your left foot. Bend the left knee slightly and lie back, with the left leg in the air and the right one flat on the floor. Keep the [stretching] leg as straight as possible—only a slight bend at the knee—and both hips on the floor.  Stopping your hips from lifting off the floor allows the hamstrings to really lengthen. Hold the raised foot above your body until you feel slight tension along the back of your leg from the buttocks to knee (but never to the point of pain). Hold for up to a minute if you can, to get the best result and then switch legs.

5. Chest and shoulders stretch

When golf and tennis season hits, it’s a good idea to stretch your shoulders and chest. When you lift your arm—for example, when swinging a racket—you reduce the space between the upper arm and the top of the shoulder, which can pinch tendons in the rotator cuff. And repeatedly reaching forward can cause chest muscles to shorten.  I also "preach" to my classes for them to open up their chests.  This is so important after sitting at a computer or driving and to help keep your posture upright through the chest up to the neck.

I actually like to do this stretch in a doorway and put my hands (with elbows in a 90 degree angle) on each door jam. It really opens your chest and feels really nice.  
 **It helps your posture and gets rid of the the dreaded “hunchback”!

Technique: Stand about a foot and a half out from the corner of a room, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place hands on walls with fingertips at shoulder height. Lean forward to feel a stretch across the chest—your shoulder blades should come closer together. Hold for 20 seconds, but not to the point that you are uncomfortable. Do one to three repetitions.

 There you have it . . . FIVE really great stretches that give you a total body stretch!  Keep these in your back pocket and use them daily!  Please do not end a workout without stretching!  

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