Being flexible is just as important as say, being able to run 3 miles, squat 200 pounds or perform 2 minutes worth of burpees. Let’s say it is possibly one of the more important physical traits one can have. The body benefits are limitless. Your ability to move freely with the greatest range of motion and to do it comfortably is probably the best way to protect your joints and ligaments from wear and tear or injury. Making stretch a priority to your workouts is essential for long term development of strength and flexibility.
There is a mind body power to having a flexible body. As the mind reflects what the body is experiencing the reverse is also true. People who are more flexible in body tend to have a more flexible mind. People who are very flexible tend to have a great imagination, they are more accepting of others and have the ability to grasp esoteric, inventive or adventurous points of view.
In youth we tend to be far more active and flexible. As we age we not only become less physically active but our daily lives require us to move in a restricted range of motion. Think of the hours sitting at a desk or standing at a counter all day neither require much more physically than flexion of the hips and arms in the frontal plane. Beyond that our bodies tend to atrophy in place unless we seek different ways to move and create opportunities to do so.
Yoga is a fantastic option if you have access to a class or can watch a video. However, if you are like me hyper-flexible, yoga is not a great option as I tend to over stretch. The other problem especially if you are watching a video is that no one is there to watch your form or give you modifications should a pose be too difficult for you. The other issue I have is that I get bored, (sorry that’s how I feel) LOL. If however, yoga is right for you and feels good, you have greater range of motion and ease of movement throughout your day (and you don’t get bored) stick with it! Do what works! Here are some options if yoga isn’t for you…
Movement through range of motion is the hallmark of dynamic stretching. It’s a way of stretching and lengthening opposing muscle groups for functional ease of movement. Some may find dynamic stretch easier and less painful to do than a static stretch. Always start every stretch session with 5-10 minutes of light cardio. Then proceed..
TORSO TWIST- Lying on your back spread your arms out straight perpendicular to your body and bend your knees with feet flat on floor. Allow your knees to drop to one side making sure your shoulders stay in contact with the floor. Exhale contract the abs back to spine and lift the knees up and over to the other side. Repeat 8 times.
DUCK STEP OR LEG SWINGS-
Take a step forward and swing the other leg as high as you can (to the point just before it becomes painful) step forward on that foot and repeat the other side, moving forward. Repeat 30 steps.
Lying face down on the floor arms spread out perpendicular to your sides. Lift the left leg up and back over the right side, allowing your hips to rotate so left hip faces ceiling, come back to prone position on the floor and repeat to the other side. Move back and forth like this for 8 sets.
BACK BEND- You can practice moving into a back bend lying flat on your back and bending elbows, position hands by your ears so fingers point toward your shoulders, knees are bent and feet flat on the floor. Push off your hands and stabilize your hips by pushing heels into floor as you raise your back. The first few times may seem difficult but with practice you will gradually be able to lift into an arched position. ** Please be advised this is an advanced dynamic stretch.
Static stretching is important for specific muscle flexibility. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends holding a stretch for 30 seconds to gain greatest benefit. Here are a few for those sitting at a desk for extended periods of time.
Stand with feet hip distance apart and hold your hands behind your back clasping your fingers together. Inhale, fill your lungs and expand your ribcage forward, lift your chin up to the ceiling and gently arch your back.
Stand with feet hip distance apart, hands by your sides, arms straight and shoulders square. Tilt head to right so right ear is close to right shoulder. Then rotate chin down toward shoulder and then skim chin along chest creating an arc along the chest as you move your chin up to left shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat moving back across the chest to the right shoulder hold for 15 seconds, repeat.
FOAM ROLLER STRETCH
Combining simple stretches with a foam roller can make it easier to perform dynamic stretches as well as functional training. Foam rolling helps to break the surface tension of the fascia that surrounds each muscle. Often when there’s inflammation in a muscle or group of muscles the fascia tightens around the muscle to protect it from further strain or injury. Sometimes inflammation can be caused by ingesting the wrong food, experiencing strain of an old injury or having a new one. In any case it’s important to either get a massage to soften the fascia to allow for more normal movement or foam roll it.
You can foam roll almost every part of your body. The main point to remember is to allow your body weight to do the work.
FOAM ROLL BACK OF LEGS-To foam roll your calves, hamstrings and gluteus sit on a floor with a foam roller under your ankles, place your hands near your hips on the floor and lift your body off the floor as you push your body forward allowing the foam roller to roll under each body part until you’ve reached your glutes.
FOAM ROLL BACK- To foam roll your back position the foam roller behind your shoulder blades and lean back. Keep knees bent with feet flat on the floor and lift your hips, then push back so the roller moves down your back toward your lower back and then shift forward allowing the foam roller to roll back up behind the upper back. Repeat 10 times.
Try to schedule in and dedicate time to a stretch program. Even if all you have is 10 minutes a day you can gain ground in your flexibility and spare yourself a lot of pain in the process. Good Luck!