Put an End to Sore Cramping Muscles

Are your muscles and joints sore after exercising? Do your legs and feet cramp at night? Most of the soreness and cramping can be avoided. Here's how.

No matter whether you're shooting some hoops with friends or competing in a championship soccer match, the first two things you should do are warm up and stretch. Together, warming up and stretching help you perform your best without pain or injury.

Jogging, shadow boxing, and jumping jacks are great ways to warm up. They'll get your heart beating faster and increase blood flow to your muscles and joints. Sweating and breathing faster than normal are signs you're warmed up.

Stretching after you're warmed up makes your muscles and joints more flexible, preventing injuries and stopping your muscles from cramping. Flexibility also allows you to move your muscles through their full range of motion. That helps you jump higher, reach further, and run faster. Here are some good basic warm-up and stretching tips:

1. Warm up before you stretch.
2. Move your joints to get your body's natural lubrication (synovial fluid) going.
3. Rotate your wrists and ankles, bend your elbows and knees, and roll your shoulders.
4. Make sure the movements are slow and controlled and that your joints move through their full range of motion.
5. Stretch all your major muscle groups, beginning with your upper body, then your middle body, and finally your lower body.
6. Do each stretch at least once.
7. Breathe normally-in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don't hold your breath.
8. Maintain the correct form and body posture.
9. Gently put tension on your muscles.
10. Stretching should feel good and not cause pain. If it does, stop.
11. Take about 10 minutes to warm up and stretch.

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