Introduction: How to Stretch
I am not a professional, however, I am an athlete. I have been running Cross Country and Track for over five years and have picked up many stretching techniques doing so. In this Instructable I will cover a good bit of the traditional stretches, and some the not so traditional stretches, here it goes...
Step 1: Warm-Up
Before doing any physical activity it is a good idea to warm-up and stretch. Why warm-up? Warming-up helps prevent injury, and gets your body ready to go. By warming-up you begin to stretch, and loosen up many of your muscles. I usually do a half mile jog. Depending on the intensity of the activity you plan on doing your warm-up may be shorter or longer. A good rule of thumb is if you're sweating, you're warmed-up.
Step 2: Touch Your Toes
Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to touch your toes, you may not. Touch Your Toes is only a generic term used to describe this stretch. When done, this will stretch your mid-back and hamstrings.
With both feet parallel to one another, slowly bend at the hips and try to touch your toes with your finger tips. To do this stretch properly and to get the most from it, don't bend at the knees, keep your legs straight. If this is painful to do, you may be reaching to far, just ease up a bit. It is important not to bounce when reaching for your toes.
Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds and move on to the next stretch.
Step 3: Spread Um'
Spread your legs. How far? As far as you can without hurting yourself. I usually spread my legs until I can put my hands flat on the ground when bent over. This will stretch your groin and inner thigh.
Again, hold for 30-60 seconds and carry on.
Step 4: To the Right...
This is similar to the previous stretch, this one however only focuses on your right groin and thigh. After 30-60 seconds switch to the left side and hold.
Step 5: Butterfly
Time to sit down. The butterfly is another stretch that will stretch your groin and inner thigh. If you noticed, there is a good bit of groin and thigh stretching. Each of these groin stretches are put in an order that will progressively stretch you a little more. It seems excessive, but it is important to do them all.
Sitting on your butt, put the bottoms of your feet together and pull your heels towards your groin.
Hold for 30-60 seconds and continue...
Step 6: Right Leg Out
From the butterfly position, put your right leg out and with your left arm reach for your right toes. Hold, and then put your left leg back. Lean back, once more, depending on your flexibility, you may not be able to lean back all the way. Lean back as far as you can, hold for 30-60 seconds. Part one of this stretch will work your inner thigh and hamstring. The leaning back will stretch your quadriceps. After doing so, put your left leg out and repeat.
Step 7: Quads
Standing on one leg, pull your left heel to your butt with your right arm. With your left arm brace yourself against something. If there is nothing nearby to help support you, staring at one spot on the ground will help you keep your balance. Hold and then stretch your right quad.
Step 8: Calf Stretch
For this stretch I am going to cover two different techniques. They both work equally, however one is useful if there is nothing to brace yourself against.
Suppose you do have something to brace against; with you palms against the support, put one leg forward, and the other back. The leg that is further from the wall will be the one being stretched. You should feel a pull in your calf. Hold and then switch legs.
This next technique is similar to a push-up. This stretch is done when there is nothing to brace against. Get into to push-up position, and then simply rest one leg on the other. Hold and switch legs.
Step 9: Upper-Body and Neck
The previous stretches have covered your lower body. These next few are equally important, however are not completely necessary if your intentionion is to go out for a run.
Step 10: Neck
Tip your head back until you can feel it stretching. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Put your chin to your chest, and hold.
Rest your right ear to your right shoulder, hold for 10-30 seconds, and then switch to the left.
Step 11: Deltoids
With your right arm across your chest, use your left arm to push your right elbow into your chest. Again, hold for 10-30 seconds, then switch to the left.
Step 12: Triceps
With your right elbow straight up and your right hand dangling behind your back, use your left hand to pull your right elbow to the left. Hold, then switch to your left arm.
Step 13: The Good Morning Stretch
I jokingly call this the Good Morning Stretch; most of us naturally do this stretch when we wake up. while standing, put your hands above your head and weave your fingers together. Pull your hands apart, and then lean to the right/left for 10-30 seconds and switch sides. This will stretch out your sides and or obliques.
Step 14: Get Out and Give It a Shot...
Get out and try some of these stretches, even if you have no intention of doing any physical activity it's a great way to start your day. I hope you learned something new from my Instructable. And remember, it is equally important to stretch after physical activity as to not tighten and feel sore.
I am more than happy to answer any questions or comments you may have. Thanks for reading my Instructable!