My friends Adam and Ryan over at Shapeshifter recently introduced me to their latest “secret weapon”, yoga expert Kris Fondran. And today, Kris is going share some new insights about the incredible power of flexibility – in case you needed a little reminder.
Take it away Kris…
It’s important to stretch if you want to stay healthy. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who disagrees with that statement. But very few people actually take the time to implement a regular flexibility routine.
In fact, most only add flexibility training to their workout AFTER they develop a chronic problem. And it’s often only on the advice of their doctor or physiotherapist.
Did the fitness movement miss something here???
The benefits of flexibility training have been studied for decades. We all know that keeping your body flexible will help decrease the tightness and tensions that can lead to chronic and often debilitating physical problems.
And its’s MUCH easier to prevent those problem before they start.
Once you’ve been sidelined from regular activities due to orthopedic or other problems, it becomes increasingly difficult to begin exercising again. It hurts, you feel tired and uncoordinated, and that stiff, sore, achy feeling only seems to get worse.
The dumb thing is, a little preventative stretching each day will totally avoid all that pain and misery. What’s more, it’ll actually make you feel HALF YOUR AGE!
So why the heck aren’t more of us stretching or doing a simple yoga routine?
Even the most dedicated athlete — professional or recreational — often fails to make time for adequate flexibility training.
Runners, for instance, will sometimes brag about how inflexible they are. And in spite of this inflexibility, they’ll continue to clock miles without cooling down with anything more extensive than a “10 second obligatory calf stretch against a wall.”
As a former marathon runner, I can speak from experience about how not taking time to increase the flexibility of your hips, back and lower body can wear down even the fittest of athletes. It will put a brake on your performance that gradually gets worse over time — to the point where you’re no longer running at all. Notice I said I was a “former” marathon runner 😉
“Pavement pounders” might be the most obvious example of the “inflexibility problem.” But it isn’t just runners who suffer from painful and debilitating muscle imbalances…
Those who do a majority of their fitness training with weights can also become symmetrically imbalanced and inflexible.
Adding bulk to your frame nearly always adds tightness, and unless you address this you’ll see less overall improvement in muscle size and strength over time.
Adding some basic yoga movements to your weight training session can have a profound effect on your ability to apply force, on your muscularity, and on how quickly you recover after a workout. Weight trainers don’t NEED to be so sore between sessions. They CHOOSE to be 😉
We’ve used running and weight lifting as specific examples of how muscular imbalances can happen. But it certainly isn’t limited to sports. In fact, daily life is the greatest threat we face. Spend too much time sitting in a chair or behind the wheel of a car, and your body gets better at staying that way.
All physical activities require varying levels of balance, strength, and flexibility.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to add another hour to your training sessions several times per week. All of these things can be improved through a regular yoga routine.
An awful lot of “stuff” is categorized under the broad umbrella of “yoga,” and there is truly something for everyone.
Everyone? Even old people / young people/ fat people / skinny people / weak people / tired people / achy people / grouchy people / lazy people?
Yes! Well, maybe not lazy people. You have to do a little bit of work…
Yoga is a vast discipline, and you WILL find movements and postures that will be appropriately challenging for your age, gender and level of flexibility. When those movements are scaled to where you’re at NOW, you’ll make amazing progress, alleviate the stress and strain of daily life, and you may even rehabilitate chronic injuries.
So how do you do it?
Find a yoga program that’s adaptable to your current level of flexibility and fitness. Not all yoga programs are for everyone, so finding the right one is important.
Listen to your body: it knows your limitations! If a movement or posture hurts, then stop doing it immediately. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and in yoga there’s more than one posture or movement that can work the same muscle group. A good teacher will find the specific variation that works for you.
That built in variety is also a great motivator. With hundreds of postures and movements to be mastered, you’ll never get bored of doing the same old stretches. But remember: don’t get ahead of yourself. Start with just one pose.
One pose will turn into two, two into three, and you’ll soon find yourself hooked on stretching.
The other key to feeling great through yoga is simple: showing up. Consistency is more important than the amount of time you initially dedicate to your practice. Schedule your session, just as you would a weight training workout or a trip to the dentist. And stick to it. You’ll be amazed what even a few weeks will feel like!
What if you’re just starting out?
Congratulations! You’ve got an exciting journey ahead of you. Take it step by step and you’ll make incredible progress.
If you’ve never done regular flexibility training or yoga before, set yourself up for success by starting slow. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a flexibility program of at least 10 minutes duration that involves all the major muscle groups of the body.
Do four or more repetitions per muscle group, and repeat a minimum of 2-3 times per week.
This is manageable for even the busiest person, and you’ll be motivated to explore further as those aches, pains and stiff spots melt away.
That’s the greatest thing about yoga, in my experience. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.
When something feels that good and makes you look even better, why the heck wouldn’t you give it a try?
Thanks Kris for reminding us just how important regular flexibility truly is. There’s nothing better than feeling limber and strong, instead of tight and limited. Wouldn’t you agree?