I’m sure for most of you, flexibility is something you want to achieve. Whether this is a small amount to make some of your pole moves feel more comfortable, or bigger ranges of flexibility to get you into those splits, it’s probably something that you know a little about.
For me, I used to do gymnastics and as I have grown up (physically more than mentally, I’m sure!) I have lost some of that flexibility. I remember some one telling me that if you were unable to do box splits as a child, you would never be able to do them as an adult. If you could do them, then as an adult it would be slightly easier than impossible. Hmm.. Not overly encouraging, but if it’s true then perhaps that’s time practicing that I could spend do something else…
Who Says What?
The problem with flexibility (as well as many other fitness related elements) is that you will quite often find people saying one thing is 100% true, and find another saying the complete opposite, with just as much certainty. One reason for this is that research is constantly changing and is often inconclusive. Something you firmly believe now, may be contradicted in a years time.
Another is that people believe what they want to believe. If you look up flexibility it is more likely that you’ll believe something you read that you want to believe rather than not… and possibly pass this on whether true or not. Regardless of what people put out there, the main point is to make sure that you are looking after your body when you do stretch!
The Good News
You’ll be happy to know that flexibility can be gained at any age. If you’re not flexible then you should start now 🙂 You can only increase your flexibility if you actually do it, and do it often. The amount of times that I see people who think that they are going to get to their splits before the end of the month when they only stretch once a week is unbelievable. The problem with thinking like this, is that as soon as the month has passed, and you haven’t managed your splits, you’ll probably give up and not want to do it any more.
Unlike exercise you can stretch every single day – providing that you are doing it safely:
Warm-ups and cool downs are often over looked when it comes to workouts. You need to make sure that you do a warm-up at least, if not a proper workout session to make sure that your body is warm before you stretch. This means that you are more likely to be able to stretch further, and more importantly, are less likely to tear something when stretching.
You may have been to a dance class (not necessarily pole based) where you are bouncing at the end of the stretch. This is considered to be quite a dangerous way of stretching as you are much more likely to tear something painful. You do find this a lot in dance and ballet where dancers want to increase their range of motion – they stretch to their limit and bounce in the stretch to try and go further.
While it’s not my call to out rule ballistic stretching as I have been guilty of this many times, I would say to be wary of it before you do this, especially if following off of a DVD rather than being able to talk to someone about it.
To increase your flexibility, it is much more safe to perform developmental stretches. For this, you need to hold your stretch initially for 6 – 10 seconds. Then go deeper into the stretch. Do not allow yourself to ease off (unless painful) and then hold for another 20 seconds. This will allow you to go further and start to allow your body to let you go further with each stretch.
Know When To Stop
While saying that we can stretch everyday, obviously there are always exceptions to the rule. If you are injured or are in pain you should stop.
If you think you are stretching incorrectly, or potentially hurting yourself, being slightly closer to the splits is not going to make you feel better when you have put your back out.
If you don’t have time to warm up, don’t stretch! I can’t emphasise this enough!
Don’t Believe The Haters
I’m not really one to use the phrase ‘haters’ but for this occasion, I feel it is appropriate. You find in life that there are some people who want to crush your dreams without actually knowing you. One that really got me was when my hairdresser told me my hair would never grow long… that was a sad day!
With regards to stretching and flexibility, you will find some people who will tell you that you will never be able to reach your flexibility goals. Don’t believe them! For starters, if you stretch often, you will see improvement. Also, they don’t know you. You may have not done much stretching before but are naturally flexible. You may stretch a couple of times a month, not see much improvement and be discouraged by their thoughts.
The main thing is to stick with it. Your body is your own and you shouldn’t let others tell you what you can and can’t do. Yes, there are some of us that are and will be more flexible than others, but who says your goal is to place your feet on your head. Touching your toes might be enough. Just think of all the pole moves you never thought you’d manage… imagine if you had given up when things got tough!
Mark Your Progress
It is really important for you to mark your progress. You can do this by taking pictures (or ask someone else to, as this may be easier!) or you can physically measure distances eg how far away from the floor you are in your splits. This will help you see your improvements and keep you going.
Why not give it a go and send us your progress pics 😀
Photo Copyright: Dark Wolf Photography