Flexibility in fitness isn’t always high on the priority list, but building up your flexibility is just as important as building your strength…
Lorna Jane Motion Sports Bra | Lorna Jane In The Zone Short Tight
Photographer: Ryan Ammon
While I may be a little bias in my opinion on the importance of being limber (it is the number one priority of a dancer), I am not incorrect. It isn’t all about being a contortionist, but working on your flexibility is just as important in avoiding injury as what building your strength is. If footballers worked on lengthening their hamstrings more stringently, there would be a smaller number of players sidelined for hamstring injuries each year. And if golfers worked on their obliques and the stretch and twist in their spine, the risk of back injury would be minimised substantially. You see, you are effectively shortening your muscles by ‘bulking’ or using them in a certain manner repetitively, and by ignoring the ‘stretching out’ part you increase the risk of rips, tears and twinges. Working on your strength, and stretching out your muscles seem to be two opposing ideas, but they are most definitely not mutually exclusive of each other (take a gymnast for example)… they do work together.
So how do you start working on building your flexibility?
- The most important thing when are starting out, is making sure that you are using the correct technique so you are focussing the stretch on the muscles that you are supposed to be. Something as simple as twisting your hips out of alignment could mean that instead of stretching out your hamstrings, you are only stretching out your inner thigh, effectively ‘wasting’ that stretch.
- Building your flexibility is a long process that needs a lot of persistence. You wouldn’t go to a gym and expect to be able to bench press 200kg straight off the bat would you? It is the same with flexibility – you can’t expect to be able to sit in a perfect split after trying for just 2 days in a row (in fact, I have been working on my splits since I was 7, and even now they still aren’t perfect). By practicing your stretches every day, no matter how sore or stiff you are, you will become increasingly more flexible.
- Push through the pain and challenge yourself. If the stretch isn’t hurting (and I mean an ‘uncomfortable’ hurt, not an ‘I just tore something’ hurt), then you are not working your muscles. Don’t give up when it starts to hurt, just breathe deeper and count down from 10. If it doesn’t hurt enough, push yourself that little bit further.
Once you are in alignment, and are in the right frame of mind to start working on your flexibility, the only thing left to do in order to move forwards is to get stretching… often!
If you would like to know what stretches are my favourite for working on my flexibility, I am thinking about working on a small blog series focussing on stretching and flexibility. If this is something you would be interested in catching, leave a comment below with what you would most like to see me include!