Seven Great Stretches

To avoid injury, start every workout with a five-minute stroll and these stretches.
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  • Neck stretch. Bring your left ear to your left shoulder until you feel a pull. Hold 10 seconds, bring your head back to center and then lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Don't turn or twist your head.
  • Shoulder shrug. Lift your shoulders toward your ears, hold for two seconds and then release your shoulders for four seconds. Repeat four times.
  • Calf and Achilles tendon stretch. Facing a wall, put your palms against it and stretch your right leg in back of you, with both feet flat on the floor. Bend your left knee slightly forward, but not beyond your toe. Be sure to keep your back straight, not leaning forward. Your toes should point forward and both hips should be parallel to the wall. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. Don't bounce on this, or any, stretch.
  • Hamstring (back thigh) stretch. Find a bench or sturdy chair and put one foot on it so the leg is straight. Lean forward slightly until you feel tightness in the back of that thigh. Keep the knee slightly bent and the foot flexed. Hold for eight seconds and then relax for eight seconds. Then stretch the same side again, for up to 30 seconds for a more extensive stretch. Repeat on the other side.
  • Quadriceps (front thigh) stretch. Stand facing a wall. Lift your right foot behind you and grab your right ankle with your right hand. Keep the right knee pointed toward the floor and pull your foot back until you feel a stretch in the leg, but not in the knee. Tighten your right buttock to enhance the stretch. Make sure you stand straight, not leaning forward or to the side. Repeat on the left side.
  • Chest stretch. Stand up and put your hands behind your back and interlock your fingers, with palms facing each other. Raise your hands up and stretch. Another option is to stand in a doorway and extend your hands out to the frame. Hang on, and lean forward as if you were the masthead on a ship.
  • Lower back stretch. Have you hugged your knees today? You can get a great stretch by sitting in a chair and hugging yourself, right above your knees. If a chair isn't handy, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your thighs just above your knees. Tuck your pelvis and tighten your tummy as if your belly button were pressing into your spine. Round your back into a C shape, hold for 10 seconds, and release to your natural position. Repeat.