STRETCHES YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO MISS WHEN WORKING OUT
We all know in theory that you should stretch after a workout, but how many of us really bother with stretching, if we’re just at the gym on our own? When you’ve just finished a killer workout, whether it’s a long run or a tennis match, it often feels like too much hassle to stop and stretch before heading for the showers. It’s really important though, that we do stretch our muscles after a workout; it can help to stop us from feeling stiff and sore the next day, and helps to improve our range of motion, thus preventing injury. Of course, if you’ve worked on a particular muscle group you should pay special attention to those muscles when stretching, but there are some stretches you should do after every workout if you want to avoid becoming stiff and sore.
There are very few people in this world who wouldn’t like their hamstrings to be more flexible. There are various different ways to do this, but one of the most simple and effective is to just sit on the floor, legs straight out in front of you, and reach towards your toes. Try to keep your spine long for this, and not hunched over; you’re trying to get your chest towards your knees rather than your shoulders forwards. As you breathe in, feel your spine lengthening, and then stretch forward as you breathe out. If this is uncomfortable, you can do one leg at a time; simply bend the other leg out to the side with your heel as close to your groin as you can manage.
Another area where lots of people will experience tightness; after all, whatever work or exercise you do, you’re most probably moving your legs back and forth a lot: running, walking and so on. If you find that you often suffer with a sore lower back, that may well be because your hip flexors are tight and pulling your pelvis out of alignment. A great stretch for this is to kneel on the floor with your right leg in front at ninety degrees (as if proposing). Lean forward on to your right leg, so that your left hip flexor is stretched. For extra stretch, lift your left arm over your head; you can even lean slightly to your right. You can modify this by doing it against a wall, so that your left foot is propped up against the wall and you’re balancing on your left knee.
Our quads are another muscle that get a lot of use, and if tight can cause problems with the hips and lower back. It’s really simple to stretch your quads, and can feel really good if you’ve been working them hard. Simply stand up straight and bend one leg at the knee, bringing your foot towards your bottom. Use your hand to grab your ankle and pull the foot in towards your bottom. You should feel this stretch down the front of your leg.
The chest muscles are another group that are worked whether we realise it or not, and if we’re sitting at a desk all day it’s even more important to stretch those chest muscles out. Standing with feet shoulder width apart, bring your hands behind your body and clasp them together. Gently pull your hands upwards, stretching the muscles at the front of your chest.
Stretching after a workout is important to avoid feeling stiff and sore the next day – so always make time for the stretching mats after your workout!