How I’m training for flexibility

My cat, Abby, stole the show.

This year I am going to be working on getting more flexible.

I’ve always been a little bit of an amateur acrobat but in recent months I’ve experienced some back pain. So, I’m going to be focusing on being gentle with myself.

My flexibility challenge is NOT going to be about how many cool positions I can contort my body into. Although, I’d really like to be able to do splits, or at least touch my toes without pain.

Many people are surprised to learn that this simple move pains me. I’ve always had extreme tightness in my hamstrings.

But, hopefully, that’s all about to change!

1. I’m going to focus on breathing

I’ll be breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth consciously and continuously, as we can sometimes forget in the midst of training. I’m also going to incorporate different styles of breath used in yoga. I probably won’t do this with intense stretches, but with light stretches or basic yoga poses I will practice different breathing techniques. One that I particularly enjoy is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which involves alternating breath from one nostril to the other. This style of breathing can help create awareness in the body and release built up tension.

2. I’m going to take is slow

I have to admit, I like to push myself. It’s in my DNA, it’s part of who I am. But, in recent years I’ve learned that it’s okay NOT to squeeze out that extra mile or reach for that extra inch…or go from a handstand into a backbend. I’m going to push myself in a different way this time. I’m going to push myself to SHOW UP. After each workout I’ll cycle through a stretch routine, nice and slowly.

3. I am going to be consistent

Seriously, consistency makes the dream work (or is that teamwork? really, it’s both). I have even toyed with the idea of making one of my training days solely dedicated to stretching, foam rolling, and recovery type exercises. I’ll keep you posted on that. But for right now, I will be stretching consistently after every workout. Notice how I said AFTER and not BEFORE. Stretching can create tiny tears in your muscles that will cause more stress on your body throughout your workout. OR, you can always warm up before you stretch and then workout, if you prefer to feel especially loose pre-workout.

4. I’m going to hold my stretches for 30-60 seconds

Typically, stretches should be held anywhere from 30-60 seconds. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should never bounce. I plan to stretch all of my major muscle groups AND foam roll. I wrote an article on foam rolling tips and its benefits that you can check out here. The foam roller is an awfully under-utilized tool for decreasing muscle soreness.

5. I am going to be dynamic

Dynamic stretching involves movement. I plan to bring movement to my stretches by performing lunge twists, butterflies, and hip circles. I already do a lot of dynamic upper body stretches that I plan to keep up with as well, arm circles are my favorite. For more info about dynamic stretching checkout this Healthline article.

Thanks for reading xx. Be well–and limber!

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