concerning the least of our attentions

 

Often overlooked. Hardly the focus. Do you know what I’m referring to? Probably not but that’s OK. I haven’t really given any clues. Let’s try this: No one does it, no one has time for it, it’s at the end of the workout (if you do it at all). Got it yet? You are correct: Stretching.

I’m writing this post because I realized how much flexibility is ignored and doesn’t get the due attention it should.  A student of mine came up to me and asked what could be done to get better at karate, grappling, sparring. The focus of the question was putting on weight to become stronger to do these things. When I asked the student some questions it became apparent that the goal of the student was to bulk up. Kind of funny because yes you need strength to grapple to a point (but it shouldn’t be the only thing relied on), and you need healthy cardio so you don’t gas out but how much strength do you need? And where does flexibility play into this?

History

Let’s look at a well known grappler, Royce Gracie. The story goes that Royce Gracie was chosen over Rickson Gracie for UFC 1 as Royce had a smaller physique compared to Rickson Gracie and winning UFC 1 would be that much more impressive since grappling was new to the MMA sport. Everyone though it would be a striker that would win and when a small grappler won ju-jutsu took off. It showed that you could defend yourself, defeat your enemy and you didn’t have to be huge to do it. You could protect yourself while having somewhat of an ‘average’ build. But what did that average build of Royce Gracie bring with it? Great flexibility. To be a great grappler you also need to be very flexible. If you watch professional level grappling it usually becomes apparent that flexibility plays a very important role. Watch no gi grappling, especially 10th Planet Eddie Bravo grappling and you can see how important flexibility is.

But the importance is so underestimated, so overlooked. When have you ever heard someone talking about getting healthier and mention flexibility at the same time? Never, right? And it doesn’t only live in it’s world of grappling. Everything we do requires a level of being flexible. And the older we get the more we lose it. Things tighten up. We don’t realize how inflexible we are until we try to do something and we can’t. I see it in people who are in their 30’s. Already they have stiffened up.

Why

Flexibility has never received it’s due. Tons of infomercials on building stronger abs, building a strong body, losing weight, getting that beach body. But tell me, what infomercial have you seen for getting more flexible? Crickets. That’s what I hear right now because there isn’t one. So if we never hear about it, it’s never brought up when you talk to a professional about getting healthier, losing weight then you will never give it it’s due.

But you need to. Want to be more injury free? Want to perform better? Then stretch. You need to. More range of motion means it’s easier to move when you need to. It means you are less likely to get injured when you move. And if you are looking to increase performance then stretching will give you that. Longer muscles perform better than shorter muscle.

What

So where do you start? I recommend getting an evaluation from a personal trainer. Ideally this will help identify muscles that are short and tight and need stretching. These are the muscles you want to stretch. These muscles are the ones that have tightened up over time due to our lifestyles. Muscles like the front of our shoulders, our ham strings. Don’t stretch the muscles that are already relaxed and long. Focus on the tight muscles.

You can stretch every day. If you don’t have time to work out then ease into it, giving time for the muscles to warm up. If you are working out, leave the stretching for the end of the workout. And stretch those muscles holding the stretch no less than 90 seconds per stretch.

Bored? Yep. I think that’s why most of us don’t stretch because it can be boring. Doing something else while stretching helps with this. Get on the floor and stretch while reading a book, or watching Netflix, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be boring.

Do it. And don’t make an excuse. You can  be more flexible if you work at it. And who wouldn’t love to be able to kick someone in the head and not have to lean way back to do it ;).

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night.

And when this we rightly know

Thro’ the World we safely go.

How can you be better if you choose not to listen to someone you trust? People read blog posts, they listen to their expert friend, they hear something on the radio, as they listen to their morning show on their way to work. The 15 second sound bite followed by humorous banter. And it’s all that much better when they are the echo chamber.

I think this is the first post where I am providing my perspective. The perspective of a personal trainer. Someone who is on the other side of the workout. I’ve officially have been training people for 4 years, unofficially for about 8 years. I’ve read thousands of articles by professionals in the field. I’ve read thousands of articles from medical experts. Articles that have been peered reviewed and also articles that are non-industry funded.

Yet I find people constantly look at themselves as the expert when it comes to what is best for them when they are working out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going through a phase of self pity. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

This mainly happens with the martial arts and combat fitness classes I teach. It’s pretty normal to have people come to these classes, make some initial gains, then plateau. I want to help them. That’s in my nature. I want them to continue to progress but when suggestions are made they are ignored, or met with excuses.

Sometimes I think people think I just stand there and bark out orders, oblivious to what they are doing. I watch everything. I see every time the knee going down after 20 seconds of mountain climbers just like it did a month ago. I see the pause taken when the legs come back in on a burpee, the pause before the jump from the squat. The same pause you’ve been taking over the last two months.

I don’t call you out but instead I mention to the class how to do the exercise focusing on what you are doing incorrectly. You know, something such as ‘You should see an improvement from 4 weeks ago. If you paused when doing mountain climbers at 20 seconds a month ago you shouldn’t be pausing now till about 40 seconds’.

Some of the reasons I hear are interesting. ‘I can’t do this because I’ll fall over’, ‘I can’t move that way’, ‘I’m tired’. ‘I read that I shouldn’t do it this hard’.

It’s human nature isn’t it. It’s tough to push yourself and not everyone wants to. But why are you paying money for this? Why are you paying money to not listen to an expert? Save your money, go to a gym and do what you want there. You won’t have to listen to someone telling you how to exercise and you can then do what YOU want.

Will you get the same results then if you listened to your trainer? No, of course not. But that doesn’t seem to matter to you anyway.

 

Life is not easy. It’s full of adversity. Understand that and change your thinking. You’ll be better for it. Or don’t and keep being the same person you don’t want to be.

Yours in health,

Darryl