If I had a dime for every time someone told me they were the “least flexible person in the world” and “beyond hope” I would have a really big pile of dimes. Then often this same person, with a little encouragement, will find that they are actually more flexible than they imagined, they’ve just been stretching wrong… or likely not stretching at all!
The truth is that no one is beyond hope, even if they were the Least Flexible Person in the World according to the Guinness Book of World Records! Barring certain medical conditions and injuries anyone can get bendier. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long it has been since you have stretched, or how tight your muscles. Improvement is possible!
Some of the most common obstacles to becoming more flexible are:
1. Over-emphasis on passive stretches. Sitting in a stretch and waiting for your muscles to finally lengthen is frequently unsatisfying. Some people find that the muscles don’t relax and you sit there feeling frustrated and in pain.
Solution: Try more active, resistance, and dynamic stretches. They are more fun, hurt less, and tend to yield results when static stretching has failed. For more about the different types of stretching see this blog post on stretching for adults.
2. Poor alignment: Finding exactly the right position for each stretch is super-duper important to get the best results. If you let your alignment get wonky your muscles will not get a good, even stretch.
Solution: Don’t worry so much about going deeper into every position; focus on alignment and eventually the depth will come. If you aren’t sure about the alignment, find a video, book, or a class to help you. Sometimes we all need a little help to learn new things!
3. Bad posture: Your mom was right, posture is important! Even if you stretch like a maniac you are still spending the vast majority of your time NOT stretching. If that not-stretching time is spent hunched, sunk in, slumped, hunkered, slouched, or curled, your body will just tighten right back up.
Solution: Sit up straight! Stand up straight! Not only will this help you balance out your muscles, avoid joint pain, and get more flexible, it will also make you look more confident and powerful. Winning.
4. Not stretching: Yes, I said it. Not stretching is the number one reason for not being flexible. Stretching “every once in a while” doesn’t cut the mustard. You need to stretch at least three times a week to see results or your body will forget the work you’ve done and tighten back up.
Solution: Find a way to incorporate stretching into your life. Maybe its fifteen minutes every morning when you get up, maybe its half an hour after your workout, maybe its three one hour sessions a week. Set it, and stick to it. Get an accountabilibuddy. Fall in love with stretching. Keep doing it; you will get more flexible.
If flexibility is important to you (and it should be if you have a body and you enjoy moving it) then you need to stretch. This is true for all ages, all body types, all abilities. Learning how to stretch properly will give you flexibility, and flexibility is freedom.