Stretches prior to outdoor activities:

Stretches to do before participating in outdoor activities:

Lower back and legs

  • While standing, place hands firmly on hips. Bend backwards until you feel a stretch.
  • Clasp hands together over head. Lean to one side, keeping back straight, until you feel a stretch in your side. Repeat on other side.
  • Using a wall for support, grasp ankle behind you. Push leg back to stretch front of thigh, keeping thigh inline with body. Repeat on other side.

Being active helps slow down bone loss and improve strength and balance.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as gardening, are important for maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis, a condition whereby bones become weak and break easily, says Emily Cooper, a research assistant with Toronto General Hospital. Another bonus from getting outside all year long is the vitamin D your body produces from being out in the sun (but remember to cover up after 15 minutes or so to protect against excess sun exposure). Vitamin D works with calcium to build strong bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

Hamstring Stretch

Stretch HamstringRunners are notorious for tight hamstrings that can cause lower back problems and lead to pulled muscles. Tight hamstrings also limit your range of motion, which can affect running stride, form and speed. To improve hamstring flexibility, try this lying hamstring stretch, which keeps the spine neutral whereas basic toe touches (forward bends) do not, thereby reducing risk of low back pain.

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Quadriceps Stretch

Stretch QuadsStretching the quads forces your hamstrings to contract, helping them get stronger. It's important to have strong and flexible quads since these muscles help lift your knees and increase your speed. This standing quad stretch is into to incorporate after a run, and once you master this, you can carefully pull your thigh and knee slightly behind your body (not pictured) for a greater hip flexor stretch at the same time.

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Piriformis Stretches

Your piriformis muscle is responsible for the rotation of the hip. Although it's very important in activities that frequently change direction, it tends to tighten up in runners. If the piriformis becomes too tight or spasms, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which causes pain in the glutes, lower back and thighs. To prevent these issues, try these two stretches:

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Calf Stretches

Stretch CalfFlexible calf muscles can improve your ability to increase the length of your stride, which results in increased speed. Loose calf muscles also take some of the burden away from your shins as you bring your trailing leg forward when running, helping prevent shin pain or shin splints. This basic calf stretch is an easy one to incorporate. Check out this video for more calf stretching demonstrations.

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Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch

The illiotibial band is part of a muscle that runs along the outside of the knee and can create pain when it starts to rub on the kneecap. This is typically an overuse injury (trying to do too much too soon or not giving your body adequate time for rest and recovery). Stretches that target the IT band, like the example below, can reduce pain and prevent future knee problems.

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