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Don't Forget to Stretch

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Sometimes it’s too easy to forget the most basic, but essential part of your workout: the stretch.

There are a few different ways to perform stretching exercises, from athletes to weekend warriors and for those who work out every day. Even if you are an elite athlete performing at a high level, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you include a stretch after your warm-up and then again after your cool-down. If you are an athlete, talk with your trainer to determine what stretching exercises will suit you best.

Always start a stretch after your warm-up session. A great way to do this is by taking a brief walk that is faster than normal or by doing a lighter version of the activity that you intend on doing for your workout. For example, if you want to use the stair climber for 30 minutes, you could start your workout on the machine at a low pace for about five minutes. This could count as your warm-up. As soon as the five minutes are up, it’s time to stretch. Never stretch a “cold” muscle, meaning a muscle that has not been through a warm-up yet. Stretching “cold” muscles could cause discomfort or an injury.

A good rule-of-thumb to aim for is to stretch at least the large muscle groups: legs (upper and lower), hips, back, chest, arms and trunk (core abdominal) muscles. Avoid bouncing motions and try to maintain controlled movement though the whole stretch. You should feel the muscle tightening during the stretch, but no pain. Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to stretch with instructions on how to do so, check out this link from ACE Fitness.