When it comes to stretching, there is so much information available online that researching becomes a little daunting and it’s hard to know what to do and how often. I’m not an expert but I have managed to make some pretty good progress in the last few months and I’m old!
A lot of my students are unhappy with their level of flexibility. They know they need to work on it but don’t get the progress they want or give up after a short period of time because the progress isn’t happening quick enough. And for some unknown reason, despite the fact that almost all my students want to be more flexible, our weekly stretch class is really quiet. And those that do attend, don’t have the progress they want because they don’t use the tools learned in class at home and although once a week is better than nothing, it isn’t really enough. So this post is partly wrote to inform them how much I’ve had to actually put into my flexibility improvements this last four months and to say that stretching actually becomes quite enjoyable if you don’t put any pressure on yourself and you remain consistent. Most of the time now I look forward to my stretch sessions and if I’m aching to much to stretch properly then I rest instead or foam roller.
Having not trained properly for over four years I knew I had a lot of work to do rebuilding my strength and my flexibility. I’ve heard about a million times that flexibility progress is so much slower as you get older, so part of me was wondering if I was being a little delusional thinking I’d be able to split again but I wanted to try anyway. I could barely touch my toes so any flexibility gains were going to be a benefit.
I’m not naturally bendy. I never have been bendy and the first time I ever manage to split I was 30 years old and it took me around three years to get. I could never split cold. It was always an effort and my full split never happened when I wanted or needed it to and my pole and aerial split moves were very unpredictable and could only happen after about an hour of warm up stretching. So I wanted to try and do things differently this time around.
One of the only benefits to having Graves’ disease is I can legitimately start again with everything without feeling like I’m regressing or that people will judge. I’m sure there’s a few people that still will but I know what’s happened and I know why I am having to start again so I want to enjoy it. Starting again is a little different to starting for the first time. I still have all the same knowledge rattling around in my head about moves and techniques. I’m also armed with the knowledge of what mistakes I made the first time and how those mistakes hindered my training. And that includes stretching! It’s shocking how much time I had to have off in the past because I’d not warmed up properly or I’d pushed a stretch to far and they are mistakes I refuse to make this time round.
It was actually by chance that I came across Easyflexibility. I’d signed up to receive their newsletter on their website a long time ago and then just forgot about it. Just as I was looking to start stretching again an email offer came through with small taster programmes available for hamstrings and hip flexors. I knew my hamstrings and hip flexors needed work so I signed up, thinking it would just give me a couple of ideas and maybe some new passive stretches to try. I didn’t really know what Easyflexibility was and I had never heard of the Zaichik stretching technique (ZST). Turns out they’re pretty good, ZST focuses each stretch to target individual muscles rather than muscle groups to ensure each muscle is doing its job correctly for any given action. Not only does this help progress happen faster by targeting all the muscles involved, it also helps prevent injury. And after the stretch techniques, it goes through some exercises to strengthen the muscles at their end ranges which was exactly what I needed.
After purchasing the taster programmes I managed to purchase a back bending programme completely from the points I had built up on the splits progress measuring app, stretch180 in around three weeks. And following that I won the whole dancers package on a like and share competition on the Easyflexibility Facebook page so I had plenty to work with.
I don’t want to big up Easyflexibility to much and sound like I’m trying to sell it to everyone. I have signed up as an affiliate with them since my last post and I plan to be teaching online, live classes for them in a few weeks. But all of my stretch students know, I love the programmes. We’ve been using these techniques in stretch class this last couple of months and it really works and that’s why I am happy to team up with them.
But it’s not all I’ve done, and I can’t say if I’d have made the progress I’ve made just by using easyflexibility.
I do the Easyflexibility hamstring and hip flexor programmes around three times per week and I do them together on the same days. After doing the programmes I do a couple of active stretches and then perform a split for 20 seconds whilst engaging and relaxing my quads, five times on each side.
On top of that I do a shoulder and back mobility session twice a week and then maintenance stretches or foam rolling on my rest days. All in all I do about an hour of stretching per day, most of the time. I do have to have more days off if I’m aching to much or I’m just over tired and I have learnt that the rest days are part of the process and not to beat myself up over it.
When I stretch my back and shoulders I do the ZST stretches followed by some shoulder and back conditioning. I also do a mix of passive and active stretches in cobra and camel pose. And finish by doing the wheel pose a few times, really focusing on technique each time.
My splits progress I am over the moon with. I was at one point looking at working on an over split but for now I just want to focus on my split being comfortable and getting into it quicker. I’ve manage to get it down to 10 minutes of warming up and stretching. Which I think is the best it’s ever been. And my shoulder flexibility has improved loads.
Because of Graves disease my recovery is sometimes much slower and I can ache for a lot longer. I have found that now I am doing more weight training and pole work, I can’t stretch as frequently due to the aching. But it doesn’t seem to have hindered my progress!
I think the biggest thing that has helped my progress this time around is being relaxed about it. The progress has been easy and natural and my stretch sessions are enjoyable!
I’m probably never going to be a contortionist or have a ten block over split like my daughter Grace, and I’m ok with that, I’ll leave the extreme bendy moves to those that are, but I’m not to old to improve my flexibility and I’m really happy with my progress so far!!