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Want to be physically better at everything? Get more flexible.

Professional athletes are staying competitive in their sport at much older ages now. Greater knowledge and technology in training and placing greater importance on flexibility is a big part of that.

BEING IN GOOD SHAPE; IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT MUSCLES ANYMORE

Ok, well it never was but you know what I’m saying. It wasn’t that long ago that guys were only lifting heavy weights and thinking that they were in great shape. The health and fitness culture of today now looks at muscles as only a part of the overall picture. A guy may be really good at picking things up and putting them back down and then picking them back up and then putting them back down again. But can he touch his toes with straight legs? Like everything else in today’s society, what is considered a “healthy look” is more complex as you have to look like you can move well in addition to having muscles.

The popularity of activities like CrossFit, Bootcamp, and yoga are requiring and improving more than muscle strength. Flexibility has become more than just a sidebar to training and being healthy. For many, it’s the main focus as the benefits are huge and widespread.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING MORE FLEXIBLE

In thinking about it, I can’t think of much that being more flexible doesn’t help with. Every physical thing you do will be easier and better with more flexibility. Every sport from billiards to rugby will improve. The sex you have will improve. You’ll even have an easier time getting up and down from the couch to watch TV.

Greater flexibility will improve your body in many ways. Your joints, tendons, and ligaments will be stronger. Your muscles will expand and contract better. Your bones will be healthier as they will be able to align properly. Also, functioning systems in your body will work better by having added circulation, oxygenation, and space. With more flexibility you will have fewer occurrences of injuries like pulled muscles, tendonitis, and cramping.

Being more flexible will also improve you mentally. It will give you greater confidence in your ability to do something physically difficult and allow you to try new things by taking away some of the fear of getting injured. And it can give you greater posture so that you may walk or run better which will make you look healthier.

OK. YOU HAD ME AT “BETTER SEX”. NOW HOW DO I BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE?

I have a four-letter word for how to become more flexible and for some it’s a bad word. That word is “yoga”. I’ve been a pretty healthy guy for my entire adult life and have done many activities. For me, yoga has been by far the best thing for many healthy effects including increasing my flexibility. Nothing will increase your ranges of motion better than yoga. Period. Do some research. Find a yoga class near you and go and try it. I absolutely recommend going to an actual yoga studio, but a yoga class at a gym is better than nothing. Don’t worry about not knowing anything. In almost all styles, every yoga class is a class that a first timer or beginner can take. Go in there, try to leave your ego and any preconceived notions at the door, and just go along with it. In less time than you think, you’ll be touching your toes and scratching that hard to reach part of your back.

Yoga may not be for you. You may be way too cool or macho to go into a room full of positive, attractive people wearing tight workout clothes who are trying to improve themselves. That’s OK. No problem. There are other ways to become more flexible.

The internet is full of websites that teach you how to be more flexible and I suggest you do some reading and viewing there. The first thing you’ll read is how just stretching won’t increase flexibility. I agree with that, but you do have to stretch so plan on experiencing some discomfort. After all, no pain no gain, right? Here are five basic tips to gain flexibility while you stretch:

FIVE TIPS WHILE STRETCHING

1 Warm the body up first – Gaining flexibility means gaining space within the body. And you gain space by stretching things. Doing this without having nice warm body parts, good blood flow and oxygen means pain and injury. Get you entire body nice and heated up.

2. Try to have good posture – No matter how you are extending or twisting your body, pay attention to your spinal alignment. Don’t curl up like a roly-poly bug just to try to reach your toes. Have good posture, then reach. My first yoga teacher would always say “extension precedes placement”. Thanks Gerry Lishin!

3. Don’t hold your breath – In order to make the space required for more flexibility, you’ll have to be relaxed. This means breathing during a potentially uncomfortable activity like stretching. What do we do when life gets tense? We hold our breath. Don’t do that! Release the tension of your stretch by exhaling. Stay where you are by inhaling. Relax and repeat.

4. Make sure you are stable – Most stretching should be done on the floor as your body is more stable down there. You don’t want to be twisting or reaching in a situation where you can lose your balance and fall over. That could be bad. Be stable and take it slowly. Work on your balance some other time.

5. Chill out and take it slow – I get it. You’re a type A that likes to be in good shape. You are competitive, so you don’t mind going at it big and fast and heavy. You want to be number one and achieve all that you set out to do no matter the cost. OK, whoa, slow your roll G-dog. Gained flexibility doesn’t happen like that. Making space in your body takes control. Use this time while you are stretching to learn how to be relaxed with yourself. If you don’t learn to relax, guess what? You won’t gain in flexibility.

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