It hadn’t really occurred to me that quitting the gym for an odd year would do anything apart from add a couple of inches to my waist, and arms, and legs, and… face? Anyway, last night, I was going about doing Cassey Ho’s June calendar workout when it dawned on me… my first real setback from not exercising: I’m not flexible anymore. As in if you tried lifting my leg up past my waist it would probably fall off.
Let’s backtrack just a little bit…
When I was four years old, I started doing ballet. Six years later, I switched schools and no longer had the time to commit to both ballet and homework, so I quit.
At 10, I started playing tennis. Three years later, I no longer had the time to commit to both tennis and being a rebellious, prepubescent teenager, so I quit.
At 13, I took up hip-hop dance lessons because my friends were doing it, but quickly realized I was awkward and hated dancing, so I quit.
Jeez, I sound like a horribly unmotivated person but I’m not, I swear!
Why am I telling you this again? Right, well, my point is that growing up I was always really active and tended to be one of the more flexible people I in my social circle (save for that one weirdly gifted girl).
Okay, now, let’s fast forward to last night. I was scrambling to complete Cassey’s Slim Waist POP Pilates workout when I realized I only possessed the flexibility to execute half the moves she was whizzing through. As soon as this dawned on me, I gave up. I plopped down onto my mat to do some healthy retrospection on what a wobbly toad I felt like… and then I came up with this post.
So, what’s the big deal with flexibility anyway?
Apart from being considered an asset for certain “extracurricular” activities, flexibility is also incredibly important for our overall wellbeing. It helps lengthen muscles making them more pliable. Flexibility also helps to avoid muscle strain and prevent body aches caused by simple everyday activities. Think about it… if at 19 years old you’re having trouble bending over to reach your toes it sure as hell isn’t going to be any easier at 39. Reduced flexibility makes people more susceptible to injury on an everyday basis. Basically, just the fact that you exist requires you to be somewhat flexible. Contrary to what many believe, even the biggest sports stars and athletes need to flexible to avoid hindering their performance. Roald Bradstock, who has 33 years of experience in javelin, explains that even though all athletes have different requirements to meet, flexibility will only reduce the number of injuries they sustain and lengthen the duration of their careers. Additionally, Sharon Tanenbaum outlines a simple enough explanation without getting into too many details on Real Simple that I personally found to be enlightening.
So, how do I improve my flexibility?
I thought you’d never ask! Now, I think it’s pretty obvious that you can’t slide right into a split with the flick of a switch. I mean, you’d break, duh! So, as always, I’m going to stick with telling you to “ease into things”.
- Stretching for 10 minutes a day: Stretching is especially important at the beginning and end of your workout, more so if you lift weights on a regular basis as this can make your body extremely rigid. Gurrrrl, you need to loosen up a little!
- Yoga: If flexibility in itself is more of a goal than other aspects of fitness, then yoga is definitely a good place to start. Yoga is also known to yield countless other benefits to those that practise it like strengthening your body, giving you a peaceful state of mind and all that jazz. And if we’re being 100% honest here, aren’t we all looking for another reason to slip out of skinny jeans and into yoga pants?
Flexibility exercises for beginners:
Health magazine has laid out a guide of 12 yoga poses for “people who aren’t flexible”.If you consider yourself to be one of those people, you might want to go here.
Alternatively, if you’d rather do yoga with video guidance, watch Adrienne (of Yoga with Adrienne) take you through Yoga for Complete Beginners.
In the end, increasing your flexibility and lengthening those muscles all really boils down to a whole lot of stretching, and then some. Most people (including myself) usually focus all their time and energy on cardio and weight lifting and skimp on their warm up and cool down stretches without realizing the damage they are causing. I know that when you’re drenched in sweat from an hour long session of ass-whooping, the last thing you want to do is hang around to “lengthen and relax your muscles” – do it anyway! You can thank me later.
“Flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, next to cardiovascular conditioning and strength training,”
–David Geier, director of sports medicine, Medical University of South Carolina.
Stay tuned and on the look out for tips on surviving shark week (yikes!) that I will be sharing soon.
Don’t forget to drop me a comment if you have any other suggestions for better flexibility!
Until next time.
Thanks for reading, you’re awesome!