Stretch It Out!

Being a dancer and an aerialist, flexibility is really important to my career. You’d think after so many years dancing and performing (and so many years doing warm ups and cool downs and splits) that I’d just be uuber flexible, twisting into pretzel-like shapes in my sleep. Not so my friends. I have some of the tightest hamstrings you’ll ever find. And though my lower back is really flexible, my hips are like, drum tight.  I have my own theories as to why this is including the irresponsible habit of not drinking enough water as well as genetics and laziness when it comes to warming up before classes and rehearsals.

Flexibility is important even for those who don’t necessarily have to compete with gumby-like 18 year old girls for job security. So I decided to do some google research about it.

Here are somethings I found out (I included links to all my sources):

1. From Supplecity.com: Info

“Knowledge

(…)applying the correct principles of stretching will allow you to benefit from those exercises rather than injure yourself.

  • Stretch gently. Never force a stretch. Doing so damages muscle fiber, and may even tear connective tissue from the bone. You haven’t felt pain until you’ve felt that.
  • Don’t bounce. Yes, some folks do get decent results with “dynamic stretching.” However, this is risky and you are better off just taking your time to reach your flexibility goals.
  • Hold a stretch for 45 to 60 seconds, then relax the part being stretched. If you alternate one minute of stretching with one minute of rest, you will see much faster results than doing one long period of stretching. And, it won’t hurt as much.

Stretching and nutrition

You need these nutrients to increase flexibility:

  • Water. Drink at least 1 gallon (4 litres) of water per day per 150 lbs of body weight, if you are working in increasing your stretch limits. You will need this to keep your cells flushed and to improve general metabolic processes.
  • Vitamin C and a B complex. Don’t take plain ascorbic acid–your body can’t absorb it very well. You need B and C together to increase your cell wall elasticity. Begin a B and C regimen at least two weeks before starting to increase your stretch limits. Don’t go overboard on this stuff, either–take the recommended dose. Adding vitamin E and essential fatty acids will also help.
  • You need quality protein to build up cell walls after stretching.
  • Unless your joints are healthy, you won’t have flexibility or mobility without pain.

If you find you reach a plateau with stretching, take a few days off from it. Resume your stretching, and you should break your plateau. During this time, maintain your nutritional needs as described above.”   

2. From Selfgrowth.com: Some tips

“1. Be consistent with your stretching routine. Stretching for a few minutes each day will gradually build flexibility and range of motion. This is far preferable to stretching only once a week for a longer time.

2. Never stretch cold muscles. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, and several studies have shown that stretching cold muscles slightly decreases muscle strength and power for up to an hour after stretching. Warm up first, then stretch.

3. Never force a stretch beyond the point of mild tension. Stretching is not an activity that is meant to be painful; it should be pleasurable, relaxing and very beneficial. Too many people believe that to get the most from their stretching they need to be in constant pain, but this is one of the greatest mistakes you can make when stretching.

4. Your flexibility changes day to day, so you may not be able to perform your stretching routine in the same manner with the same results at each session.

5. Never throw your body into a stretch or bounce when stretching. Stretching should be fluid and gentile. Stretching slowly and gently helps to relax your muscles, which in turn makes stretching more pleasurable and beneficial. This will also help to avoid muscle tears and strains that can be caused by rapid, jerky movements.

6. Breathe slowly and easily while stretching. Many people unconsciously hold their breath while stretching. This causes tension in your muscles, which in turn makes it very difficult to stretch. To avoid this, remember to breathe slowly and deeply during your stretching. This helps to relax your muscles, promotes blood flow, and increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.

7. Time yourself and try to increase your time in each stretch by a few seconds each week. Start with 10-15 seconds and extend this by 5 seconds each week until you can hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds.

8. Never stretch an injury. Wait until the injury has healed, then start stretching.”

3. Found at Fierce Flexibility: An explaination of some actual stretches, along with pictures of young cheerleaders stretching, crazy crazy flexible! and the following tip I’m going to HAVE to incorporate!

“-After stretching, find light ankle weights and put them on, do each of your stretches a couple times, take them off and do each your stretches again.”

Hmmmm I guess I was right about my water intake affecting flexibility! I guess I can add daily (not just twice a week) stretching, drinking water like crazy and finding some ankle weights to my April to do list!

 Twyla Tharp making flexibility and aging sexy at 66. This picture was for a Gap ad shot by Annie Leibovitz. She’s one of my top 10 inspiring women.  I encourage you to at least peruse through her book “The Creative Habit”

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About Coco

Dancer, performer, cosmetologist and now first time mum. I spent my life traveling the world as a performer. Now, the next chapter is unfolding...

Posted on April 5, 2012, in Fitness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I can hardly bend over these days, I need to take some of this advice!

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