It’s something we all want more of (well I do anyway) and I wish this blog post was called “become super flexible in 20 minutes” but unfortunately there is no quick fix, the truth is improving flexibility takes time, consistency and commitment to the process. Will it be worth it? Hell yes, improving your flexibility will help reduce stiffness after a workout or training session and it will make you less likely to pick up those niggling injuries that slow or halt progress.
Why is Flexibility important?
Flexibility is needed to perform everyday activities with relative ease. Simple things like getting out of bed, lifting your children, or tying your shoes. For athletes improved flexibility may enhance performance in aerobic training and muscular conditioning as well as in a chosen sport. Simply put improving your flexibility and therefore range of motion will make you better at what you do, you’ll be able to kick further, throw faster and reach higher. There is also evidence that incidences of injury decrease when people include flexibility training in their overall training routines due to the enhanced ability to move without impediment.
Unfortunately flexibility is something we tend to lose as we age. Over time, we create movement patterns and posture habits that can lead to reduced mobility. Without flexibility, daily activities become more difficult to perform and for athletes the risk of injury increases.
How do you become more flexible?
For the sportspeople and gym-goers reading I’d start by suggesting a proper warm up before any gym or training session, this should include some dynamic stretching to help increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare them for whats to come. Then in your cool down do some static stretching. When the muscles are warm static stretching can be used to begin to increase flexibility, positions can be held for longer periods of time and you can gradually ease deeper and deeper into the position as the muscles “open up.”
For those not involved in organized training stretching can be done at home. I try and set aside 30 minutes 4-5 times per week (usually before bed) and I go through some basic stretches for my legs, hips and shoulders. I’ve found this really beneficial and it’s even helping me sleep better at night.
If you aren’t the stretching before bed type or you know you won’t have the discipline to stick to a stretching routine then I would suggest finding a type of exercise that has stretching built into the routine. In Pilates each exercise we do has a strength element and a stretch element so by the time a session is over you leave feeling stronger and longer.
Whatever you decide give it time and stick to it, you’ll see and feel results before too long and from there you can build on it.
You’ll be touching your toes in no time!