You know the feeling. You wake up the next day after a work out and think, “I thought exercise was supposed to make me feel better?” Instead, your muscles feel stiff and sore which gives you an excuse to never exercise again. But, before you quit working out or reach for pain medication, learn how to lessen evitable aches and pains by warming up those muscles.
Stretching will help and is a good form of exercise. It reduces muscle soreness, tension, stress, increases flexibility, and prevents injuries that occur during day-to-day activities. Stretching requires no special equipment and can virtually be done almost anywhere.
In a fitness routine, start with a 10 minute cardio warm-up (walking or marching in place). Warming up increases the flow of blood to the major muscle groups which raises the body temperature and makes muscles pliable.
Here are a few important points to remember before stretching:
• Never hold your breath – slow, controlled, deep breathing helps with relaxing;
• Refrain from bouncing movements;
• Hold stretch until muscles feel mild tension, never pain; and
• Do not attempt back and hamstring (back of thighs) stretches if you have existing back problems.
All Over Stretch – stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Breathing normally, raise arms over your head and bring hands together. Slowly reach or stretch upward. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat twice.
Upper Back – stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands clasped shoulder high (palms facing away from body). Gently push palms away from the body, being careful not to stiffen or lock elbows. Repeat twice.
Lower Back – Start on floor and slowly contract abdominals and flatten your back. Curl back in an upward motion, similar to the way a cat hunches its back up. Hold for 20-30 seconds and slowly return to a flat back position. Be sure to support your weight by placing hands on your thighs. Keep chin up and eyes focused straight ahead. Repeat twice.
Quadriceps (front of thighs) – lie on floor on right side with left arm extended, resting your head on the right arm. Keep right leg straight while bending left knee. Reach back with left hand grasping.
“The Day After” you will be feeling…. GREAT!