Sunday, October 30, 2011


Starting with Stretches

Want to start your day off right? A stretch routine first thing in the morning is a great way to wake up your muscles and get your blood flowing.

While you may want to hit that snooze button over and over, a better way to start your day is with a few early morning stretches. Besides feeling good physically, stretching is mentally and physiologically beneficial as well. It improves your flexibility, circulation, coordination and balance, posture, and your mood.

With just 10 minutes of stretching added into your morning routine, you'll be prepared to face the day. Here are a few easy stretches to get you going.

Breathe Deeply

The simplest stretch to get started with is deep breathing. Sit up straight in a chair or even on the side of your bed. Rest your hands on your stomach and breathe in deeply. Exhale normally and notice the movement of your stomach. Repeat this exercise a few times, all the while breathing evenly, and progress slowly up to 12 repetitions.

Loosen Your Neck

Still sitting (or standing if you'd rather), keep your neck straight and move your head slowly forward as far as you can. Then slowly lean your head backward as far as you can. Repeat this movement a few times. Then smoothly and slowly roll your head in a circular motion. This will loosen up your neck muscles.

Relax Your Shoulders

Moving down your body, it's time to stretch your shoulders. After sleeping on your side, they may be especially tense. While sitting or standing in a balanced position, slowly and steadily lift your shoulders upward toward your ears, and lower them smoothly. Repeat several times. For another shoulder stretch, place your hands on your shoulders, move your elbows close together, and rotate your arms in a circle.

Stretch Your Sides

To stretch your side muscles, stand straight with your arms by your sides. Place your right hand behind your head and point your elbow out to your side. Bend your waist to the left, keeping your left arm straight, and reach down toward the floor. Hold this position for a couple seconds then stand up straight again. Repeat this stretch a few times and switch sides.

Loosen that Lower Back

This stretch will loosen your lower back and buttocks muscle. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Rest the ankle of your left leg on your right knee. Hold your right thigh and pull your leg toward your chest. You will feel a definite stretch. Hold this for a few seconds then relax. Repeat and hold for another 15–20 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Stretch Your Hamstring

Another important muscle to stretch is your hamstring, which runs from your buttocks down to below your knee. While lying on the floor, take hold of the back of one thigh and pull your leg to a 90-degree position, keeping your leg as straight as possible. Hold for 20 seconds, slowly lower your leg back to the floor, switch legs, and repeat.

Help Your Hips

One last helpful stretch to get you going in the morning is the seated knee raise, also known as seated marching. When done right, it improves your hip stability and your range of motion. Sit up straight in a chair and lift and lower one knee at a time as if you are marching. Lift both legs at least 10 times.

One Size Does Not Fit All.

Not only are stretches important before you exercise, they are also beneficial to start your day off right. However, you shouldn't expect your stretch to look identical to someone else performing the same stretch. Adjust your stretches to meet your needs according to your age and level of fitness. If you've had injuries in the past, take precaution and check with your doctor before beginning any new routines.

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