Developing your flexibility through stretches may not be the most interesting workout routine but it’s one of the most efficient fitness routines that is beneficial for your overall well-being. Being flexible is important especially in executing workout routines as it reduces tightness in the muscles which in turn promotes a workout that is efficient and safe at the same time.
Although it may not be as glamorous and rush-giving as other exercises, it has a lot of benefits for your body that other exercises do not offer.
1. Know your body
First thing’s first, for whatever mission you intend to accomplish, especially if it’s related to your body, it will always be a matter of first knowing yourself, specifically your body.
Before considering the other factors that will help you in developing your flexibility, it’s a must to be aware and have a deep understanding of your entire body. This way, you will be able to know how to use it in such a way that you will feel comfortable and at ease all the time during this course. You will also be able to initiate a deep connection between your body and brain in order for them to work together.
Follow these tips to get to know your body:
- Be mindful all the time as to what your body tells you
- Try certain movements and observe how your body reacts to them
- Just have some fun while you do it and you’ll soon notice how your body works on its own
Having a deep understanding about your body as you practice body stretching and movements will help you to develop your flexibility more effectively and chances are you will eventually be able to do it in the most natural way possible.
You may consider certain stretches that promote flexibility, however, if you notice that it’s not working no matter what, something you’re doing might not be ideal for you. The fact that it’s not working on you doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not an effective stretch to develop your flexibility. Perhaps your body is not yet ready for this type of stretching. The best way to deal with this is to start and focus on stretches that require minimal movements and slowly step up as you progress.
2. Create a daily routine
One secret that flexible people share is that they have a concrete daily routine that they follow. But this journey of becoming flexible does not end in just having a daily routine. Sticking to it to it is crucial in order for you to become flexible naturally.
In order to do this, you have to follow the routine at the start of your day as well as the end of your day. Some flexible people even advised to practice it from time to time in windows of opportunity during the day. This daily routine will serve as your benchmark to appreciate your progress each day.
3. Grab each opportunity to practice as much as possible
Developing your flexibility should not end with a 1-hour stretching workout. You should practice stretching your body whenever a chance pops up in order for you to develop flexibility in the shortest period of time. You can do it
- While watching TV
- While checking your Facebook newsfeed
- While lying on your bed
You get the picture. It doesn’t have to be hardcore all the time. Small practices are also vital, remember, when you add them up, you end up getting bigger results. Don’t underestimate a 5-minute stretching you do while doing 6 separate activities throughout the day because that already equals to a 30-minute practice that you would have missed. Imagine over a week or a month – that’s already a lot of practice. Having this kind of mindset allows you to see the plethora of opportunities to practice stretching whenever possible.
If you are serious about developing your flexibility, take advantage of these small chances and you’ll soon realize that it’s all worth it.
4. Energy Management
This is one of the most challenging parts of this journey as this requires you to intentionally reserve some of your energy that you are going to use later for your stretching practice.
While small stretching practices are important, we can’t deny that the best way to develop flexibility is to put your full commitment into it and you will need enough energy in order to do that consistently.
One technique that flexible people do is not going all out at every practice but rather, they just initiate enough just to create a stimulus, then they give themselves time to recover and recharge, and repeat this cycle.
Consider that the energy you leave in the tank each time of your practice not only allows your body to progress every day but, most importantly, also promotes balance levels of energy. Some studies have shown that stretching the mind is more challenging than stretching the actual body because you have to instill to yourself that extra effort must be exerted in order to develop your flexibility.
5. More practice of ‘feeling’ than ‘thinking’
This doesn’t necessarily mean flexible people are more emotional, it simply means they listen to the signals their body is telling them, instead of being so in their head about it.
It’s a matter of giving more importance to what/how you feel than what/how you think. This doesn’t necessarily imply that you have to be emotional to develop your flexibility, it’s just about allowing yourself to listen to whatever signals your body is giving you, rather than keeping them over your head all the time. It’s more of giving importance to what you feel over what you think.
6. Practice consistently
As we already mentioned earlier, your stretching practices shouldn’t be hardcore all the time. Small practices are better than no practice at all, you just have to be consistent in doing them. Remember, consistency beats intensity at the end of the day.
Consistent practice is one of the secrets of flexible people, they don’t just do it when they feel like doing it but do it as often as possible. That’s why it’s necessary to stretch your limits consistently, not just physically but mentally at the same time.
7. Learn to breathe deeply
Your goal to develop your flexibility includes going beyond your limitations. However, that’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Facing one’s limitation is not only challenging but scary at the same time, and that’s the time when breathing enters the scene (and does its job).
One of the reasons why a person is feeling tensed and nervous all the time is due to the fact that he’s not doing something that will make him feel relaxed. The good thing is that we can combat these feelings by driving ourselves to a more relaxed state. The question is how to do it? Well, ‘breathing’ is one way that effectively stimulates relaxation. Breathing is an automatic response that can balance nervousness and tenseness. I know that it’s challenging to believe that normal and simple breathing can turn things around, but of course, in order for it to be effective, the first step is to initiate it.
There are various breathing techniques all over the internet that are believed to help you in developing your flexibility. One example is the “4-7-8” method – inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and completely exhale for 8 seconds. This breathing technique promotes relaxation to your nervous system so that you will be able to carry out your stretching practice with ease.
8. Avoid suddenly jumping to extreme actions
One common mistake of people is that they rely too much on the belief that if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working. Well, it’s true that stretching may hurt somehow but it’s not to the point that you force yourself to things that will only give you an extreme discomfort. I know that you want to develop your flexibility in the shortest time possible, but you have to keep in mind that this journey will take time. It’s not a piece of cake and rushing things will not help you get any better. Going beyond your limits doesn’t mean you have to risk your safety or force your body to do something it has never done before. Take it easy and just be patient with the stretches and movements you do because forcing yourself will not work at all and you might also get hurt which will only hinder you to develop your flexibility.
There are some examples of stretching that you can incorporate to your practice to develop flexibility:
- Static Stretching
Static stretching is when you stretch your body in a certain pose and you hold it for 10 seconds at least. This is highly recommended to do after a workout or whenever a chance pops up as this stretching doesn’t require too much effort.
Do any of these static stretches at least once every day: standing side reach, lying iliotibial stretch, kneeling quadriceps stretch, and overhead triceps stretch.
- Dynamic Stretching
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching is simultaneously stretching and moving around to effectively warm up the body. Thus, it’s the type of stretching that is highly recommended before working out. Dynamic stretching includes butt kicks, toe touches, and inchworms.
Performing this kind of stretching will warm up your muscles which, in turn, causes them to move without much difficulty. As much as possible, perform a dynamic stretching before undergoing any workout by giving extra attention to your shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.
While dynamic stretching is important, it would be better if you focus on doing more static stretches. Besides, you don’t need to warm up your muscles all throughout the day, right?
- Foam Rolling
Using a foam roller to roll your muscles is another effective method to make your body more flexible. It’s a method that is traditionally used to relieve the body from tension and pressure.
This rolling exercise targets certain muscles in your thighs, middle and upper back, arms, shoulders, and calves by simply rolling over these areas with the roller together with the force of gravity and your body mass.
Rolling can be done either before a workout as it will warm up your muscles and make them more flexible which in turn makes it easier for you to move them, or after working out as it relaxes your muscles so you will end up less sore. Rolling should be done preferably at least once every day to warm up and relax the major muscle groups.
- Joint Circles
Certain joints, specifically the hips and shoulders should be stretched in circular movements. You can practice doing circles while standing or while on your knees and hands because being able to make circles using your legs and arms will promote flexibility in this areas.
Make a circular motion using one limb at a time and make the biggest circle you are able to. You don’t have to rush, you can do it slowly but do it without any constraint on your joint. Continue stretching and gently apply a light force in areas that are tighter compared to the rest.
Doing circles stimulates the flow of synovial fluid in the joints which make us move them easily and effortlessly. These circles can be done as much as you want throughout the day, preferably before working out to make your joints move smoothly throughout your routine.
How you give importance to your body is a manifestation of how you give importance to your life as a whole. There is a belief: “If you don’t use it, you lose it” which is exactly the point of flexibility. There’s no way that you can develop your flexibility without doing something about it. Basically, you need to initiate it, but how? – Practice. Yet, it isn’t just practice, you need to also apply the word ‘consistency’ in your practice in order for you to get better as you go further.
While it’s true that all types of stretching are fairly safe, pushing and forcing your muscles too hard could end up getting yourself injured. Make sure to keep everything in balance so that you will end up getting results you intend to have.