Thursday, 7 April 2016

F is for Flexibility. Get fit or die trying #atozchallenge

Get fit or die trying.

F is for Flexibility.

The most fascinating thing I've learned about flexibility is many of the facts are false. 

There are two basic types of stretching. Passive or static and active or dynamic.

Static stretching is where you gently lengthen a muscle for more than 30 seconds. Lengthening is temporary and while it is still safe it should be avoided  as a warm up before physical activity. Stretch before you jog rather then after. 

The benefits of static stretching are limited. Some experts question it's necessity.  

Dynamic stretches are movements under momentum that warm up several muscles at a time while slowly increasing your heart rate. Try repeated lunges with arm lifts. The above video has some other good examples.

Yoga and Pilates experts don't really know how stretching can make you more flexible. They know it's not because your muscles get longer. It's because you stop feeling the pain. Your brain tolerates the position you're forcing your body into, once it learns the muscles safe.

It's why babies are so flexible and patients under anaesthetic have full range of motion in muscles that are normally restricted. It's mind (or lack of developed neural pathways in the case of babies) over matter.

Lengthening muscles is counterintuitive to strengthening them.  Imagine a rubber band stretched to its maximum. It loses it's elasticity or power. 

A more complicated type of stretching is Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF,) which is a fancy term for stretching while contracting your muscles. Studies have shown that gymnasts increase their flexibility with PNF.... in other words don't relax the muscle you are trying to stretch... but be relaxed, always.

Remember the old adage"if you don't lose it you lose it?" The best way to become more flexible is to move the muscles that you want to be more flexible.

Enough information for one day. I remember doubting my teacher the first time I learned traditional facts about flexibility were myths.

Then I realised I'd never questioned my original source of information. I just believed my coaches and teachers, who no doubt believed their teachers, who believed their teachers ad infinitum. 

Go ahead, lay your head on your knees and fold yourself in half, if it feels good... and if your neural programming allows it. Just choose the right time and know why you are doing it. My pathways do not allow it. Nor does my round tummy or soft tissue injury and possibly a genetic flexibility limit too. 

Have you experienced facts turning out to be myths. What was your initial reaction?


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