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Flexibility tips and Tricks

Welcome to flexibility tips and tricks with Rochelle! This is where I write about flexibility drills, exercises, and general stretching thoughts. I hope you enjoy! Sign up here to get these posts via email!

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I hear this all the time from people: "I am getting back into flexibility training...where do I start?". This can be a very challenging and overwhelming thought, but I have some advice on where I think you should begin.

 

Listen to your body

Wherever we are wanting to "get back into something" whether it be a certain type of workout, an old routine, or a program, the starting up of it can be so challenging. I have met with many people who want to get back into flexibility, but they have no clue on where to begin. My biggest piece of advice is to LISTEN to your body. I believe it is best to ease back into a flexibility routine. By introducing our body slowly to a flexibility routine, it will allow the body to get comfortable with the new movement and not be shocked by what is happening. This requires patience though, and I know patience can be difficult. Especially in today's world, where we are so used to instant gratification and things happening within seconds, flexibility is not one of those things. I think it is great to create flexibility goals, but to put a timeline on those goals, is not ideal.

 

Timelines and flexibility

I know a big part of fitness is time lines..."in 5 weeks, I want to be able to do 5 pushups" or "by the end of the year, I want to run a marathon". There is nothing wrong with creating these timeline goals, but for flexibility, I think it is a different story. Let's take the example of "by the end of the year, I want to have my middle splits". Wanting to unlock the middle splits is a great goal, but by giving it an end date, there can be some problems:

- Problem 1: what if you do not achieve this goal by the end date? What I have found is people get extremely discouraged and end up stopping their flexibility training, because they think "what's the point?", I could not achieve that goal

- Problem 2: pushing the flexibility. Especially the last couple weeks of a flexibility goal, if someone is close to their goal, but not there yet, they start to overdue it on the stretching: they make their body go into more intense stretches, they don't listen to their body when it is saying enough, is enough, etc. All of these things make injures much more common.

- Problem 3: flexibility should be active, and when there is a flexibility goal that is on a time restraint, people get more and more tempted to make the stretching passive. Instead of putting intent behind their stretching, and making their stretching purposeful, people tend to stretch "just because they need to stretch everyday" and make the stretching super passive, i.e. they will sit in the middle splits and watch a tv show, or they will kind of stretch while they are talking with a friend. Flexibility needs to have complete focus in order for the stretching to be beneficial.

Because of these problems, even if the middle split goal is met in the time allocated, there are usually problems after the fact: adductors have been pulled, joints are hurting, muscle fatigue, etc.

 

"So what do I do?"

Excellent question...my biggest piece of advice for getting back into flexibility is to ease back into it and to not put time restraints on your flexibility goals. Think of flexibility as a diet change..there are crash diets you can do where you will lose weight fast. You might hate the diet change, hate the food, your body might feel icky, but physically you will look how you want to look. And then once you reach your goal, your body starts to reject the new food you've introduced, you crave your old food, your metabolism gets ruined, and then you go back to your old habits. UGH! I compare this crash dieting to people who have flexibility goals with a time restraint...sure you might get your splits in 5 weeks, but something is going to get injured, your body will not feel good, and you might hate stretching everyday to achieve that goal. You will get that great photo though at the end of the 5 weeks, but at what cost?

THEN, there is the diet change that is more of a lifestyle change: you slowly start incorporating new foods into your diet, you slowly replace unhealthy items with more nutrient dense foods, you allow yourself to have that candy bar if your body is craving it, etc. This is more of a lifestyle change...you are wanting this to be something that is just part of your daily routine...this is the same way I think people should go about flexibility: slowly start stretching again, make the stretching that is happening mindful, allow yourself to have rest days, listen to your body when it is telling you it is at its limit...this is the stretching I like! Flexibility should be something that is in our lives forever...joint health is important...you want to have a loving relationship with stretching, not a negative relationship. So creating this relationship from the beginning is so important. That is why I always tell my clients, patience is key, celebrate the small victories, and try not to get frustrated if you have "bad stretching days".

 

Main takeaways

Moral of this story, if you are getting back into flexibility and stretching, be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and enroll in a program (or coach) who actually knows what they are talking about! There are many coaches who have no idea what they are talking about, and they could be giving you exercises that actually could hurt you.

Functional Flexibility is all about active stretching, injury prevention, and stretching that will last. Does not matter if you are a seasoned athlete or have never stretched before. My program makes sure you go about stretching in a safe, yet effective way. Let me know if you have any questions about flexibility programs, stretching, setting up flexibility privates, and literally anything else!

Head over to my subscription site and check out my flexibility videos there!

Happy stretching!!!


https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility


 


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Even though I am all about the active flexibility, passive stretching is great to include in your training as well!

 

~Is passive stretching okay to do?~

When I work with students for an extended amount of time, this question is bound to come up sooner or later. Because so much of my flexibility training is active, my students will wonder if passive stretching is okay. And my answer is "yes, absolutely, yas"! I love doing passive stretching. I normally do passive stretching after I run and when I do little stretching throughout the day.

 

~When should I stretch passively?~

Like I said above, I stretch passively in two situations: after I run and when I do little stretching throughout the day. After I go on runs, my legs are extremely tight. Strenuous exercise will tighten up and shorten the muscles. It is of the utmost importance that I stretch my muscles after my run, specifically my legs. But because my muscles are exhausted, I do not want to push the active flexibility too much. If I were to do that, I could possibly push a stretch too far or strain something. So instead, I do passive stretching: lots of hamstring, quad, hip, and glute exercises.

The other time I do passive stretching is when I do little stretches throughout the day. I probably do about six little flexibility exercises throughout the day: calves, hip flexors, etc. All of these exercises I do are passive because I know I only have about one minute to execute them, and my body is not insanely warm. I prefer to use active stretching when I am training or sitting down for a long period of time to stretch.

 

~10 minute passive stretch~

As I stated above, there are two instances where I practice passive stretching: after runs and little stretching during the day. In addition to those two times, probably once a week, I take about 10 minutes and do a passive stretching routine. I usually will do this when my body is feeling extra tight. This might be due to a big workout I had or a busy day. The stretches I do are very basic, yet super effective. I think what can make passive stretching not effective is poor technique. Sometimes when doing passive stretching, it is easy to be lazy with form or not think about technique. Even though that might be tempting, it is still super important to remember good technique. You can have a "chill" and "relaxed" stretching session, while still maintaining good form.

 

~Chill stretch~

I uploaded a new video on my Vimeo account (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility) that is a ten minute, chill, passive flexibility routine. Remember, I am always a fan of the idea of a little bit of stretching is better than not stretching at all. If you have not moved your body at all one day, try this routine out. It is a passive flexibility routine, and can still be effective, as long as you have good technique when executing it. Try it out, or use it as a "pre warm up" to your warm up for training.

Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe!


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Shoulder drills, yum! Having mobile shoulders is important, but equally as important is having strong shoulders. But how do we do that without tightening up the shoulders?

 

~"Won't strengthening my shoulders tighten them up?"~

This is a question I get asked a lot. And it totally makes sense. Wouldn't strengthening the shoulders cause them to tighten up? Here are my thoughts about this...when I tell people they need to strengthen their shoulders, a lot of times they will respond with "But I have great upper body strength. I can do lots of pull ups, push ups, etc." The type of strengthening I am talking about though is more stabilization related. Think exercises that do not require the use of extra weight, but instead only your body weight or a resistance band. These are the types of strength exercises I am referring to. By working on these stabilization exercises, it will cause your back/shoulders to feel stronger and more supported, allowing an increase range of motion to potentially happen.

 

~Smaller movement is better~

When working with my students, I always say this phrase, especially when it comes to shoulder stabilization. It is so tempting when exercising, to try and create big movement. But with shoulder stabilization, you want to make sure you are super controlling your movement. You want to make sure the correct muscles are engaging to move your body. Sometimes form will be compensated, just so there is "big" movement. I personally would rather see smaller movement with correct muscle engagement, versus huge movement with form being compensated. So when trying these drills, be aware of your technique and correct muscle engagement.

 

~Seek outside help~

I have worked with such a variety of people: athletes who have been working on their flexibility since they were children, and others who have just recently started getting into flexibility. Some people have naturally tighter shoulders/upper back while others are more mobile. All in all, it has been such a variety of people/flexibility levels. I can honestly say, that I find shoulders/upper back to be one of the most finicky, hard to stretch areas of the body. That being said, I think if you are having any issues with your shoulders, upper back, pecks, ribs, or neck, it would be awesome to consult with a physical therapist or athletic trainer. They might be able to help you understand what is going on in your body. They could help you identify specific weaknesses, injuries, past injury or strain, and many other things. And by identifying any of these problems, it will allow you to train smarter, which will benefit your flexibility greatly.

 

~Stabilization drills~

The drills I have in my videos are designed to help with general shoulder stabilization. Like I said in the previous paragraph, if you are having any pain in the upper part of your torso, I think it would be a great idea to seek the opinion of a physical therapist. When doing the drills I have in my video, make sure the shoulders are warmed up before hand. And like previous stated, pay attention to your technique and form. Air on the side of doing small movement correctly, versus doing big movement that might have compensated form. You can find my stabilization drills on my Vimeo website at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility.

 

~"But Rochelle, I need to see examples of stabilization drills"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining 15 minutes of stabilization drills. Hope you can check it out!


https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility

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