Quick Stretches for the Morning

What do you do first thing in the morning before crawling out of the sack?

A) Go back for seconds of what you had the night before.
B) Hammer the snooze button and turn over for another 10 rotations of your alarm clock's minute hand.
C) Perform a body-loosening, workout-enhancing stretch.

Chances are, you answered A or B. Like most guys, you make a point of stretching before and after your workouts, but more than likely you've never stopped to think about the benefits of stretching before you even get out of bed and start your day.

Yet, according to Dan Oberneder, physical therapist at HealthSouth Sports Medicine in Charlotte, N.C., many people have sore, stiff muscles when they first awake, depending on their amount of activity (or inactivity) from the previous day. "Stretching increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the muscles, releases tension and improves flexibility," says Oberneder, "which definitely sets the stage for a successful physical day."

Not only will performing this stretching routine wake up your system and release tension, it can also decrease your chances of strain or injury to cold muscles. As an added bonus, tension-free muscles can lead to reduced mental stress. And who can't use a little less stress in the morning -- at least until you get stuck in rush-hour traffic?

Do the following stretches one to three times on each side; be sure to hold each one for at least 30 seconds (except for the press-up). Oberneder insists this is critical for getting true benefits from the motion, because when a muscle is stretched, its immediate reflex is to tighten up against the elongation. Working through that first reaction allows the muscle time to relax.

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