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Remember junior high PE class?

In PE class, at my school, we had to wear awful shortie, one-piece blue jumpsuits. We all had to be in our assigned row by 5 minutes after the bell, suited up in our blue rompers, accompanied by dorky socks and even dorkier white tennis shoes. (Back then cool tennis shoes hadn’t been invented yet.)

Each row had a captain who went up and down the line to check to make sure we were properly clad because if we were missing something, like a sock, we had points deducted from our grade. It was probably the closest thing I’ve ever experienced that was militaristic and I shudder just thinking about it.

I was probably the nerdiest, dorkiest girl in the class, so I was always on time ready for whatever types of athleticism the coach had planned for the day.

One day, I was the first one out on the gym floor, and the coach told me not to waste time before class, that I should be stretching to prepare for exercise.

I knew how to do jumping jacks and windmills, but I had no clue what to do as far as a stretch. So, I faked it. And, it wasn’t until I became a more serious exerciser as an adult that I began to understand the importance of stretching.

Now, as a “seasoned” fitness fanatic, not stretching before attempting any kind of exercise session could knock you way off your game…permanently!

As you go through any stretching process it’s important to remember your breathing. Breath in deeply as you stretch and then exhale as you release. Try to hold each stretch for 30 seconds and don’t bounce. Push the stretch to the point where you feel tension, but not pain. It’s also a good idea to “walk it out” after you stretch just to get the blood flowing and your body ready for more strenuous exercise.

So, here’s the basic stretch regimen that I do before running or doing any sort of exercise:

Arms, Shoulders and Neck

Start off with a few shoulder and neck rolls, both forward and back.

Next, while standing or sitting up straight grab one of your arms with the opposite hand and gently pull your arm across your chest until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the other arm.

Now, do the same stretch but this time lift your arm above your head with your elbow bent. Grab your elbow with the opposite hand and stretch. Repeat with the other arm.

Torso – Overhead Side Stretch

  While sitting or standing with your feet shoulder width apart, raise your arms over your head and interlock your fingers if you want.

While keeping your torso long (no leaning forward) slowly lean to the left and then to the right.

  Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds.


  Quads: Grab the back of a chair or a wall with your left hand. Bend your right knee and grab hold of your ankle with your right hand. Gently pull your ankle in toward your rear and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Then repeat with the other leg.

♥ Hamstring: Sit on the floor or a firm surface. Extend one of your legs out in front and then slowly lean toward the toe of the extended leg. You might only be able to reach as far as your knee. That’s okay. Stretch as far as you feel comfortable and hold for about 30 seconds. Don’t bounce!

♥ Hip Flexor: While standing or sitting, grab your knee and pull it tightly to your chest. Hold the stretch and repeat with the other leg.

♥ Forward Lunge: Stand with your feet hip width apart, and move one leg forward. Gently bend the knee of the extended leg and hold the stretch. Then repeat with the other leg.

♥ Soleus: Stand next to a wall, face it and place both hands on the wall. Now extend one leg behind you and keeping your heel to the floor. Lean forward into the wall to stretch. Then repeat with the other leg. The further back you place the extended leg, the stronger the stretch will be.

There are many other stretches that you can do, but these are the basic ones that work for me.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important one.

Coffee Mug Lift: With your right (or left) hand, wrap your fingers around the handle of a coffee mug that is filled with freshly brewed coffee. Bend that arm at the elbow and slowly (or quickly) lift the mug to your lips. Using your wrist tilt the mug so that some of the marvelous brown liquid falls into your mouth. Savor the flavor and then slowly swallow. Repeat until the heft of the mug has been consumed.

Now you are ready to hit the trail, or the gym. You are warmed up, inside and out!

Enjoy your workout Wimpy Girl!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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