Some people stretch religiously and others skip it altogether. Whatever your thoughts on stretching I really believe that stretching down after a workout can help prevent injury and lower the heart rate to a steady pace so you recover more quickly, also your muscles would have been left in a shortened state after a workout so you need to reset your body to a natural position and posture.
If you are nice and warm after a workout and then you stop suddenly there’s a real risk that you’ll seize up. Stretching keeps you nice and supple and flexible, and it can relax you and ensure you warm down slowly.
Stretching shouldn’t be hard work. You should feel a nice pull, but not push it too hard. I really enjoy stretching out as it feels really good after a hard workout. You can make stretches harder if you’re more flexible but they are for everyone, regardless of age or ability.
Always take into account your limitations when performing stretches, or any kind of exercise.
In the other column I've shown you a four key stretches to try at home. Just do these four stretches for 30 seconds each after a work out and you'll drastically reduce the chances of injury and stiffness the next day. You'll also feel better for it.
Four Key Stretches
1. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and stretch gently from your waist and reach with both hands to your toes. You might not be able to reach your toes at first but if you gradually increase the stretch then you’ll get there in the end. This will really help with your flexibility.
2. If you can balance, stand on one leg and take the other leg up behind you. Hold the ankle of the lifted leg and press your foot into your bottom, once you’ve stopped wobbling you’ll feel a nice stretch through your quads. You could always hold the back of a chair for support if you’re a bit unsteady! Swap legs and repeat.
3. Stretch your right arm across the front of your body as if you are reaching for something just past your left shoulder then with the other hand push the stretching arm into your body. The stretch should go right through your shoulder. Repeat on both sides.
4. Standing straight, cross one foot in front of the other, and with your legs crossed, gently bend from the waist and reach down for your toes. Let your arms and head hang heavy and feel a nice stretch through your spine. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes yet – it will come with practice! Remember to swap legs and stretch on both sides.