One of the classes I teach on a weekly basis is Flexibility. For a little over an hour in that class, I help people work on their flexibility. I try to add in the Why behind the stretch we’re doing or the style of stretching we’re using. I also try to add in good tidbits for increasing flexibility: staying hydrated, eating [lots of] dark leafy greens or add a few more stretching sessions in in their week. I give advice that if their goals are X, Y & Z then do some of the stretches from class that evening as homework throughout the week. Then we depart for the evening and I can only hope that they are getting some stretching in the rest of their week.
But this past class it dawned on me (not that I didn’t know this, or had’t thought it before or even said it before, but that it needed to be said (again), because I had forgotten to for a while) that Flexibility Training is like any other training, it takes time and practice and you gotta show up and do it or you’re not really going to get anywhere. So the other night, as part of my closing statement to the class, I said just that to them.
You see, you can’t expect to hang out for about an hour in your weekly class and expect to make any real progress. Sure you’ll go home that evening feeling a bit more limber, potentially relaxed and ready for bed or maybe you really pushed yourself that evening and you’ll feel a bit sore and can’t wait for a bath, but either way, if that is the only time you’re giving yourself to do some flexibility training, then it will probably take you quite some time to attain your goals.
Now don’t get me wrong, every little bit counts. If the alternative is nothing-no stretching, then please, please, please keep doing your weekly stretch session. But if you seriously want to touch your toes, have a split, or not feel so achy from your inflexibility, than you need to give yourself more time to do it. Schedule it. Even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes somewhere in your day. Set yourself an alarm to get up and do it. Honestly this is something I do for my P.T. exercises. Otherwise I forget to do them and now it’s midnight and I have to get up at 6:30am and all I want to do is slide under the covers, not take 10 minutes and do P.T.
But for realz, just like a person who’s put on weight and now wants to lose it, the pounds didn’t just appear, it slowly stepped into their life a little at a time due to a myriad of reasons, but a person doesn’t lose it all in a healthy manner overnight, it takes time. This is true of flexibility and it will take some time for you to increase yours.
Once we were all children and moved and played and contorted our bodies into various shapes and spaces to play. Then we got a little older and we sat at desks at school and there was no more recess and what you did for fun wasn’t playing on a jungle gym (or at least most of us didn’t) it was hanging out with friends playing (video/board) games, riding around listening to music, hanging at a coffee shop or loads of other activities that didn’t require you to run around and move in all planes. Maybe you were into sports in school/college, but then you graduated and got some job where potentially you do more sitting than you know is good for you and now some years later you find yourself feeling like the rusty Tin Man.
I talk about it often with my personal training clients, as we age, generally it becomes less likely that we will sit on the floor, at least here in Western society. Not having to get up and down off the floor and always sitting in chairs only aids in us becoming more inflexible. Then we might get to a point where we don’t want to, fear we can’t or actually can’t get back up off the floor without some great effort. And inflexibility can feel uncomfortable or even painful and a lot of the blame can be pointed to the postures we assume on a regular basis. Now, we all might not have been able to do a split or backbend as children, but we all did move much more freely than a good majority of us do now.
But don’t despair.
There is hope. But it will take you putting in the effort. Every little effort counts. The more time you can give to yourself the better you are going to feel. Right?!
For two reasons: 1) We feel better emotionally. When we accomplish our goal or even see ourselves making steps towards our goal it reaffirms that “Yes! this is working!” and we keep doing it. 2) We feel better physically. Whether we’ve reach our goal yet or not, we feel better in our new range of motion. And this makes us happy, which brings us back to #1, the emotional feel good and it becomes this big loop. Yay!!!
So please give yourself the gift of just a little time each day or every other day to spend time working on your flexibility. There are so many options. Take a yoga class. Join a Flexibility class. Set an alarm and do some stretches at your place of employment (there’s an app for that!), or a quiet 10 minutes during your day/evening.
Maybe try this nighttime flow?
Another time you could add some stretching exercises is while watching a show. Why not get off the couch and get on the floor and do some mobility and flexibility exercises!
There’s all kinds of stretching and mobility exercises and all of them have benefits. But just give yourself that gift. You’re worth it! Your older self will thank you.