Cat Meffan is a fitness blogger, jewellery designer and yoga teacher. Here she offers her top tips on flexibility - from warm-ups and stretches to breathing techniques. You can follow her @CatMeffan
There are numerous factors that can affect flexibility for example, age, temperature, bone structure and injuries are just a few of them. As with all forms of fitness, there is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer. So, a lot of the time it’ll come down to figuring out what your body is capable of over a period of time and trying different methods to see what works for you.
I get asked all the time if anyone can touch their toes or do a back bend and the answer is “yes, most people”… BUT flexibility doesn’t come over night and it needs to be given a lot of time and attention to make sure you avoid injury. Doing the splits might look cool, but there’s no point in forcing it. Better to dedicate a bit of time every single day to work through some stretches and then slowly, but surely, you’ll notice a difference.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Dynamic warm up
Before your workout, rather than completing a few standard stretches, opt for a more dynamic warm up like squats and lunges. By doing this you’ll be warming your muscles up rather than straining them, giving yourself a larger range of movement when completing your workouts.
Check out all the different exercises Lily and I had to do for Team GB’s Jazz Carlin’s workout:
2. Dedicate time for stretching
So many of us think that stretching means holding a couple of leg stretches for eight seconds each, but this isn’t enough to progress your flexibility. Every workout should end with 30-second holds of each stretch, but then once a week you should spend at least 20 mins repeating those 30 second stretches at least three times each. By doing a session like this each week, you’ll begin to notice your flexibility getting better.
Massaging the muscles is a great way to warm muscles up, but also help relax them. Foam rolling pre-workout can help to prepare the body for movement whereas a post-workout roll out can flush away waste products from exercise and help you recover quicker for your next session, minimizing the likelihood of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
It might not be obvious at first, but if you want more flexibility, focus more on your breathing than on your muscles. This will put your mind at ease, and create the right conditions for your muscles to release tension. A lot of people think that by bouncing their way through a stretch they’ll end up more flexible, but breathing is actually the key to this. You should feel that with every breath the stretch feels deeper.
So there you have it, a few little tips to get you thinking differently about the ways you improve your flexibility. Remember, take it slow and in time you’ll be bendy like a pretzel all over the place!