Keep your muscles in tip top condition by warming up this winter

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It's cold and damp outside, which means stretching should be high on the agenda...

Exercise
It's hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym or go for a run in the cold winter months, but it's even harder to get active when you've pulled muscles.

To tackle this, we tracked down Fitness First exercise expert, AJ Perera, to tell us about a few simple stretches and warm-up techniques that we can all do over the coming weeks.

The cold weather makes muscles tighter and less elastic and much more liable to injury.

Normally a moderately fit individual would need to warm up for five to ten minutes and stretch for three to five minutes, but an extra five minutes should be added on to each of these in the winter to protect muscles in the back and legs.

Below are some simple stretches you might like to try after a 15 minute jog or walking warm-up...

The lower back stretch

Place your hands on your hips, feet shoulder width apart then lean back. You should feeling a nice warm sensation through your lower back. Hold that for 10-15 seconds and remember to breathe while you do so.

Backs of the legs legs

Hamstrings are often pulled, so it's important to give these some extra attention. Find a bench, place one foot out in front (heel balancing on the bench), toe pointing up. Bend from your hips, keeping your back nice and straight so your chest goes towards your toe. Hold that stretch for 10-15 seconds, you should feel a stretch down the back of your upper leg through the hamstring. Remember to do both sides and to breathe.

Calf muscles

Find an object or a tree will do, push against the object making sure your back heel is on the ground. The further back your heel is, the greater the stretch will feel. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Front of our legs

To stretch the quadriceps you'll need something to help you balance. Grab your heel and bring one leg up towards your bum and hold in there, keep your body in a nice straight line, shoulders back. You should feel the stretch through the front of your leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

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