Thursday, December 23, 2010

Increasing Flexibility

One of the keys to not only racing faster but also staying healthy is maintaining a flexible body. For most people (including myself), this is a challenging thing to achieve. Most people who sit in chairs all day, or cycle a lot, find that they have very limited mobility in the lower and upper body. This is primarily due to the hip flexors being in a shortened state (bent) and also the shoulders being rolled in (due to poor posture). I have always struggled with this, but I am here to say that I have come across a resource that has significantly helped me improve my flexibility over the past 1-2 months. I came across this resource, while taking one of the training courses for becoming a running coach. And let me just say, that resource alone, has significantly improved my flexibility. But before I get to that, let me first tell a personal story of my struggles with flexibility.

I've always prided myself on the fact that I am the least flexible person in the world. It's one thing to not be very flexible, but it is another to be truly inflexible. How inflexible?

Well, when I was growing up, we had to do the "sit and reach" test in PE class (anyone else remember that?). It was a simple test where they put a box at the end of your feet with your legs extended, while you reach as far toward your toes as possible. The box contains a measuring stick, where you get a score based on how far you can reach. We were always told that a score of around 30 was normal, which was essentially the distance of reaching your ankles. I sat there and watched some people in my class reach past the box, where they actually had to grab an extra ruler to measure how much further. Well I knew I wasn't going to be doing that! So i sat down, extended my legs and began to stretch. And then our PE teacher told me to actually stretch. I was! How far did I get? I couldn't even touch the box and barely made it past my knees! They had to take that same ruler and measure it the other way from the box to get my score, which turned out to be a score of 12....worst in my class. Ever since then, I have always maintained that same lack of flexibility. I've tried yoga and had some limited success, but the 30-60 minute routines typically proved too time intensive for me to consistently fit into my schedule. I can typically go past my knees, but it is still horribly inflexible when compared to others.

So when I found something I could do that takes only 10 minutes, I was instantly hooked. While doing something similar to this routine 3-5 times a week (sometimes every day), I have achieved far more noticeable gains than anything else I have ever tried. In fact, he was the one who taught us in the training class! If you are having a difficult time with flexibility, I strongly recommend this simple routine - watch each of the videos here to help best understand exactly how to do each stretch.

As a frame of reference, I have about 20% more mobility in my hips and in a straight leg stretch on a good day, I can nearly get to my toes. This helps me every day with my running and ensuring proper form doesn't break down. If it can improve my flexibility, it can definitely do the same for you! There is still hope for the inflexible people of the world!

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