- 1. Why do you want a flexibility routine?
- 2. What is flexibility and what are the benefits?
- 3. How quickly can you get flexible?
- 4. Flexibility routine – The Proper way
- 5. What are the DO’s and DON’T’s of a flexibility routine?
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If you engage in any form of physical activities, you must have a flexibility routine to help you prevent injuries and keep your whole system healthy. Following is my step by step guide into what to do and to avoid if you want a successful flexibility routine that yield results.
1. Why do you want a flexibility routine?
Flexibility is one of the most underestimated aspect of physical activities. How many times have you launched yourself into a sport or physical effort of some sorts and neglected to properly warm-up and cool down? We all tend to put this aspect of the game behind the back of our head and think they will always be a tomorrow to do flexibility exercises. The reality is that we should put flexibility routine at the core of any training we undertake. Even when you undertake a weight loss program you might need flexibility to help you.
Here are the words of a famous football goal keeper on what his coach told him was the most important aspect of his game:
“He told me “the most important thing in football is to rest”. Rest means the ability to recover so you can come back and fight another day.” Many people practice a sport vigorously, then, when things start to fall apart in our body, we put the sport aside and think we can not do it. The reality is that whenever you do an activity, the key to progress is practice over and over. What is the best way to repeat constantly the efforts? By making sure we avoid injuries? How do we do that? By resting the body both actively and passively. Passively means to sleep or recover by relaxing our body. Actively on the other hand is concerned with stretches of our muscles.
2. What is flexibility and what are the benefits?
First, what is flexibility? It’s the ability to bend easily without breaking, or the quality of being easily adapted or offering many different options. I like both definition because I try to work on all angles. As a dancer I love to be able to create and learn new moves. These moves are impossible to learn if I cannot command my body the way I want. The ability to bend easily on the other hand offer a lots of health benefit such as better posture, reduced risk of injuries, more strength and some in the yoga sphere believe, prolonged lives.
3. How quickly can you get flexible?
Like everything, it all depends on how often you commit to the effort. Flexibility is something people can work on everyday, therefore it is possible to see results within a few weeks. However, it also depends on your physical condition, age, weight etc… Moreover, for the physical efforts, your flexibility routine must be focused on repetition and diversity. Therefore, you should have a routine that is varied and well organised to allow you to be injury free.
3.1. Did you know? You can get inured doing yoga
One of the best ways to improve flexibility is to practice yoga asanas. That’s unfortunately, also a venue for injuries. The main reason is because many practitioners either because they want to imitate their more flexible colleagues, or because they want fast results tend to push themselves too much and too fast. In order to avoid such issues you want to have a system that allows you to gradually get into the flexibility as opposed to rushing into action.
4. Flexibility routine – The Proper way
Step 1: Warm-up – 10 minutes
In order to do a proper flexibility routine, you must warm-up your body. If you take a look at my warm-up routine for dancing, you will realise that I first take care of every parts of my body, where I try to induce heat. These little and simple exercises might be all that you need for the moment. If that’s the case, just repeat this routine for an extended period of time. After you see progress, you can move to the other steps.
Do not let the simplicity of these exercises fool you. You will not be able to do most of them properly if that’s the first time you engage in such activities. Allow at least ten minutes for every parts of your body to start feeling loose and ready for the next stage. You can use this routine for any sports you are about to do. It’s effective especially if you are going to run.
From there, we can move to the heat-up phase.
Step 2: Heat-up – 5 minutes
This phase is made to increase the blood flow and raise heat in your body. I use this part to avoid injuries when I do the proper flexibility routine. It still uses body movement but at a higher pace. You basically want to ease yourself up the session and gradually scale down, so that you can do the exercise over and over.
Step 2 can last anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. I do it for 15 minutes. However it is not as compulsory as the first stage. You could skip ropes for about 10 minutes instead.
Step 3: Use Yoga Asanas – 30 minutes
I have designed a number of flexibility exercises that try to take care of the most important parts of your body. For our flexibility routine, we will work on the hamstrings, flexors, spine etc. The most important is not to do the perfect position at once, but to gradually get there. Therefore, I illustrate the moves according to different levels and stages of development.
This session can last up to 30 minutes. Once again, if you feel any pain stop immediately. The point is not to try in one time to reach the same level as those who have been doing this for many years, but to create an acceptable level of disturbance in your body.
Step 4: Relax – 5 minutes
This stage is as important as the flexibility routine itself. It’s what allows the body to recover so that you can come back every day. After step 3 you lie down with your palm open on both sides of your body. Your feet should about 3 feet apart, your eyes closed. As you breathe as slowly as possible, you allow your whole system to recover.
Step 5: Breathing – 5 minutes
A good session should eventually end with some breathing exercise. That will allow you to recentre your whole self, as well as further allow your body to recover. We will do about 3 or 4 breathing techniques to help us in that endeavour.
5. What are the DO’s and DON’T’s of a flexibility routine?
5.1. The DON’Ts
– Any efforts that will cause injuries.
These include diving into stretches without a proper warm-up. This is especially true if you are 35 years old or older. Your body needs more time to accept the strenuous efforts involved in the flexibility routine. Therefore, you should spend more time to warm-up properly. I remember when I studied yoga in India, I realised I had lots of pain even if we were doing some form of warm-ups. So, I decided that before any session, I would follow my routine which included the step 1 I enumerated above, as well as a little bit of running. This help me tremendously.
– Carry on when you feel pain.
There are advantages of doing flexibility exercises in groups; but there are also inconveniences. One of them is that you tend to imitate those who do well. Which can lead you to overdo it and incur injuries. Once you feel the pain, do not push forward and think it will go away. If you keep doing that, over a period of time, the whole purpose of flexibility routine will be nullified. Pain will be your only trophy. In that regard you can also read another article in the NewYork Times that addressed some of the issues mentioned here.
– Abruptly stop the session and go do something else.
As you have seen, I have created a number of steps for a specific reason. The purpose is to reach your peak as safely as possible, then deescalate just as securely. So, do not underestimate these relax times and breathing sessions. I use the step 1 and 4 for most of the activities I do including dancing, running, strength and conditioning etc…
5.2. The DO’s
We have mentioned almost all of them in the routine. If it helps you to heat-up faster, take a hot bath prior to the flexibility routine. For some people that works. Anything that generate a good sweat is good.
I hope this post encourages you to take flexibility seriously. It is not really about age, or weight, but willingness. Don’t forget to check my programs, I am sure you will find something that matches your need, from salsa and Zumba dancing to conditioning, or flexibility I cover every area.
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