Fitness

Prevent Injury And Relieve Stress With 6 Simple Stretches

Posted In: Fitness : 10/13/2010

Most of us don’t do nearly enough stretching.

In gymnastics I would spend one to two hours stretching each day. I knew stretching was important if I wanted to do the difficult skills.

After more than two decades in the sport I found out the hard way that if you don’t keep it up…it’s gone. I no longer need flexibility in order to tumble around on a balance beam, however, I do need it to feel good, prevent injury and allow me to keep up with all my daily activities.

  • Take slow, relaxed breaths when you stretch.
  • Exhale as you move deeper into the stretch, never bounce.
  • Proper alignment is critical to a safe and effective workout so focus on proper alignment during each stretch. If something hurts, stop immediately.

Do these stretches throughout the day to increase your flexibility, reduce stress and re-energize your day!

STANDING CHEST OPENER

Many of us tend to slouch throughout the day. This move helps perk up your posture.

STRETCH:

  • Interlock your fingers behind your back, palms facing your body.
  • Pull your arms up and away from your body to feel the stretch through your wrists, shoulders and chest.
  • Hold 15-30 seconds.
TIP: Press shoulders down and back as you move into the stretch.

SEATED CROSS LEG SIDE BEND

Your side muscles, including the internal and external obliques and the quadratus lumborum, stabilize your core. Stretching these muscles is important to your overall health and daily movement.

STRETCH:

  • Sit cross legged on the floor.
  • Pull your right arm up and over your head, keeping your body facing forward.
  • Place your left hand on the floor for balance as you move deeper into the stretch.
  • Focus on keeping pulled up in your rib cage. Keep your shoulders down with a long neck.
  • Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
TIP: Try to keep both “sit” bones firmly on the floor as you stretch to one side.

DOUBLE KNEE TORSO TWIST

If you suffer from lower back pain, this can be a wonderful and soothing position.

STRETCH:

  • Begin lying on your back with arms out horizontal.
  • Bend knees toward chest creating a 90 degree angle with the floor.
  • Slowly lower your knees to the left.
  • Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
TIP: Relax and stretch at your own pace. If your knees do not rest comfortably on the floor, you may want to place a rolled up towel or pillow underneath them.

CALF STRETCH

This stretch feels great before or after a run or long walk. If you wear high heels, do this stretch from time to time throughout the day.

STRETCH:

  • Stand arm’s length away from a wall (or sturdy chair), placing both hands against the surface.
  • Step back with your left leg, approximately 18 inches.
  • Keep both heels firmly on the floor.
  • Gradually lunge forward until you feel the stretch in your calf.
  • Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
TIP: As with the Soleus Stretch, keep your back foot perpendicular to the wall.

STANDING QUADRICEPS STRETCH

Your “quads” are the muscles in the front of your thighs. If you’re a runner, make sure to stretch these muscles after each outing.

STRETCH:

  • Use a chair or wall for balance
  • Grab your left ankle with your left hand
  • Gently lift your heel toward your tush until you feel the stretch
  • Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side
TIP: Keep pulled up straight through your back and your base leg.

STANDING STRADDLE STRETCH

In addition to a wonderful hamstring stretch, this move also adds a groin stretch.

STRETCH:

  • Begin in a standing position with feet spread at a comfortable distance
  • With your back straight, bend forward from your hips until you feel the stretch
  • Place your hands on hips, the floor or grab your elbows depending on your level of flexibility
  • Hold 15-30 seconds
TIP: Keep your knees straight but soft. You never want to lock your knees out.

For more of Shannon’s favorite stretches check out Shannon Miller “Stretching To-Go” Part of Shannon’s Fitness To-Go Series!

TIP:  If you found this article helpful, you might also want to read some related Shannon Miller Lifestyle articles:

Why Is Stretching Important?

Guidelines For Safe Exercise

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