Stretch, stretch, stretch! If there's one thing any athlete knows it's that stretching is just as important to a workout routine, as the working out itself. Stretching allows your muscles to stay loose and prevents injuries or strains. It also helps you keep your form while exercising, which will allow you to work out longer and achieve a lot more. I grew up as a gymnast so I definitely know all the benefits of stretching, and all the ramifications if you don't. There are definitely some things to keep in mind while stretching...
First of all, warm up those muscles first. You need to move around a bit. I don't mean go run a marathon, but get your body warmed up. This will allow your muscles to stretch farther and keep them from tensing up.
Now, here are the main places you should always be focusing on when stretching...
Standing upright, reach one arm across your body and hold with the other, getting as much stretch there as you can and then switch.
Stick one arm up in the air and bend at the elbow. With the other hand, reach for the hand that is hanging down and pull. Then, switch arms.
This stretch is something you could probably benefit from doing everyday. Standing upright, bend over and simply reach for your toes. Try as best as you can to keep your legs straight, but don't lock your knees.
You may need to find something for balance with this one. Stand on one leg, bend the other leg back and hold at the ankle. Then, switch legs.
Get into a push up position and now, sticking your rear into the air, begin stretching your calves one at a time.
Groin stretch -
In a sitting position, place the soles of your feet together so that they are touching and stick your knees out to the sides. It may be hard at first to get your knees to go closer to the ground, but it will get easier with time.
Hip & lower back -
Now that you're already on the ground, stretch one leg out and leave the other bent with your ankle resting on the ground. Reach out towards the foot of the stretched leg. You should feel a good stretch here. Now, switch legs and repeat.
There are many other stretches you could do, if you feel up to it. Heck, it amazes me to think about how flexible I was when I was a gymnast. And yes, I would love to get back into that shape. But for now, these are the basic stretches you should be doing before working out. Make sure to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds before moving on. And as always, stay hydrated while stretching and throughout your workout to keep your muscles from cramping up. I have to throw in the customary "use Vitalyte" here, just because when it comes to a great product for keeping your muscles quenched!
Until next time friends... Happy exercising.