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".
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!
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