Anderson started running and cycling during the salad days of the fitness boom, when the goal was simply to go farther and farther. No one knew what all those miles would do for a body--or do to a body. One day he realized he could barely reach past ...
his knees while sitting on the floor in a straight-legged position. His tight muscles thus revealed, he began a lifelong quest to figure out the secrets of flexibility.
His main discovery--and his core message to readers--is this: "Stretching feels good when done correctly," he writes. "You do not have to push limits or attempt to go further each day. It should not be a personal contest to see how far you can stretch."
The world of sports may have shifted away from Anderson's style of "static" stretching--holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds or longer--but in the everyday world, it's still considered the safest and easiest way for people to become more flexible.
The key to successful stretching, Anderson says, is not trying to do too much. "It's better to understretch than overstretch," he writes. The point of flexibility exercise, after all, is to protect yourself from injury or immobility. The worst thing you can do is hurt and ultimately immobilize yourself while trying to prevent those consequences.
Stretching contains hundreds of exercises, simply and clearly drawn by Jean Anderson, the author's wife. (In an eccentric twist, most of the figures in the drawings are shown wearing wool hats, which Mrs. Anderson designs and sells.) Routines are shown for getting up in the morning, for before and after walking or sitting, and for watching TV. Sport-specific routines include programs for weight training, basketball, golf, running, and many others. All are simple, safe, and as easy as you're willing to let them be. --Lou Schuler