Are you the type of person who goes to a fitness class and cannot get over how some people can contort themselves like a pretzel, while you can hardly imagine touching your toes? Good news for you, it turns out you can actually become more flexible. With a steady stretching routine, you are on your way to touching your toes.
Being flexible allows your muscles to remain mobile, and helps your joints move through their full range of motion, which enables your muscles to function effectively.
A stretching routine:
• Reduces the risk of injury during exercise and daily activities because muscles are more pliable.
• Improves posture and eases muscular fatigue by realigning tissue and joints.
• Reduces low back pain because the hamstrings, quads, and glutes quit pulling on the pelvis and back.
• Creates ease in everyday activities.
• Boosts sports performance, since smoother hip, knee, and ankle mobility enhance skiing and snowboarding, and generate longer strides for trail running. More range of motion in the arms and shoulders improves your golf game and strengthens your rowing skills.
So, how do you incorporate stretching into your weekly routine to help you become more flexible?
• Pilates is an excellent form of exercise that trains the whole body. Each exercise improves flexibility by strengthening one muscle group while stretching another. If you’ve never tried Pilates, you may be surprised by how powerful a workout it is, you’ll feel strong and elongated by the end of the workout.
• Yoga is an awesome way to work on your flexibility, but don’t let the pretzel people scare you. If you begin a steady regimen it will no doubt become easier and, most importantly, it will feel good.
• Ballet barre workouts are sneaky. You focus on strength during a big portion of the class, but then when your muscles are all warmed up, you finish with yummy stretches that not only help improve your flexibility but keep you from getting sore the next day.
• Aerial yoga is a fun way to integrate stretching into your lifestyle. It is similar to Pilates in that you strengthen as you stretch, because you’ll stretch deeply while harnessing your muscular strength to stay balanced. What sets aerial yoga apart is the fabric itself; it enhances flexibility by gently encouraging the body to release into the stretch.
Why do these exercises work so well?
Biomechanically a few fascinating things happen to your body when you stretch, which will actually make you more flexible over time.
• The water content in the joint, muscles, tendons, and ligaments increases.
• Stem cells can generate in the area being stretched.
• You can down-regulate your reflex loop. When a muscle stretches it sends a signal to the spinal cord and the spinal cord sends a signal back to the muscle telling it to contract, which in theory would be bad for stretching. But over time you can down regulate this loop so that the muscle can continue to stretch farther.
• You’ll lengthen muscle fibers, by increasing the amount of sarcomere (the basic unit of striated muscle tissue).
• You become desensitized to the initial pain associated with stretching and, with a devoted stretching regimen, you can actually become less sensitive to the pain.
When you incorporate stretching into your weekly routine, you will experience its amazing benefits. Over time, you will become more flexible and begin to feel great. Committing to some of the exercises above will stretch throughout your lifetime.
Bridget Crowe is the owner of Body Essentials Pilates in Dillon. She has more than 2,000 hours of training from the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado and works extensively with her mentor Kim Haroche. Bridget has completed her Master training and is a host advisor for the Pilates Center. In 2014, Bridget was trained as a Ballet Barre instructor and in 2016 became certified to teach aerial yoga. Pilates, Ballet Barre, and aerial yoga have helped shape Bridget’s unique and comprehensive teaching style. (970) 468-1607