How you begin and end your exercise routine is as important as the exercises themselves. Warming up and stretching helps in preventing injuries, while cooling down, stretching and massage keeps muscles limber.
A stretching routine
Sit on the floor with your right leg stretched and left leg folded. Reach forward along the extended right leg until you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings, the muscles in the back of your thigh. Flex from the hips and keep your back straight. Hold and then repeat with the left leg.
Lie on your back with both knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Grip your right leg and pull your thigh towards your chest and then extend the knee toward the ceiling. Hold and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Stand about two feet from the wall. Step forward with your right foot, bend your right knee and extend your left leg behind you. Keep your back straight and aligned with the extended leg. Put your hands on the wall and lean forward, keeping both heels on the floor until you feel your left calf muscles stretch. Hold and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Sit on the floor with your right leg straight and left leg crossed. Rotate at the hips and look behind you. Keep your back straight and point the toes of the extended foot towards the ceiling. Hold and then switch leg positions and repeat.
Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Put your arms behind your back and clasp your hands. Lock your elbows and lift your arms until you feel a stretch in your arms, chest and shoulders. Keep your shoulders down and as relaxed as possible. Hold. This stretch should be done without bending forward and it should be avoided by those with shoulder problems or stiffness.
Hip and thigh stretch
Squat down so that your right leg is in front of you-forming a 90 degrees angle with your right knee directly above your right ankle-and your left leg extends behind you with your left knee touching the floor. Press your pelvis forward and downward, holding the stretch for several seconds. Repeat with your right leg back.
Side-to-side neck stretch
Gently push your right ear towards your right shoulder and then bring your head back to an upright position. Next, lower your left ear towards your left shoulder. Do so without rolling from side to side.
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