10th Law of Exercise: Flexibility

Saturday, September 04, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Tony Horton

Flexibility is the fountain of youth. Flexible people are much less prone to injury. Yoga and stretching allow you to bring more intensity to your workouts. Flexibility is the key component to becoming less vulnerable and more durable. Aging has a funny way of making everything we do harder. Staying limber and flexible is the way to prevent that from happening.

When I was a young lad, there was really no such thing as stretching. When I heard the word yoga, I thought people were mispronouncing yogurt. Come to think of it, I didn't know what yogurt was either . . . some kind of healthy sour milk. Nasty! (I love it now!)

Back in the '60s (yes, I'm that old), there were benchmarks that determined how fit you were: push-ups, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups (not crunches), the 100-yard dash, and touching your toes. The first five items on the list involved strength and speed. Some kids had it, while others did not. I was in the "did not" category. (That changed later.) Touching your toes was a breeze for all of us. Even out-of-shape kids like me could touch their toes.

When you're young (no matter what kind of shape you're in), you're naturally flexible and prone to recover quickly. Kids get scrapes, bruises, even broken bones, but it's pretty rare for a young child to pull a muscle, and if they do, they recover in the blink of an eye. Back in the good old days, the focus was on running faster and jumping higher. The only kids in my neighborhood who stretched were gymnasts or ballerinas. Try to imagine a stretch class for children in the '60s. Yeah, right!

Back in the day, proper stretching didn't happen. For most adults it still doesn't. Studies show that pulled muscles (due to lack of flexibility) cause as many people to quit their fitness programs as joint injuries. Back and hamstring muscle strains/injuries can take as long to heal as broken bones . . . or longer.

People hate to stretch because they think it's too boring. They believe stiff, tight people can't become flexible. They say stretching and yoga are too uncomfortable, and they don't see results fast enough. People don't like it because it cuts into their workout time. I'm here to tell you it's time to rethink the importance of flexibility.

Stretching, yoga, and Pilates improve overall body awareness, enhance all aspects of physical fitness, reduce muscular soreness, and increase skill levels during training and athletic performance. Flexibility increases mental relaxation, greatly reduces the risks of various injuries (like back problems, muscle strains, and joint sprains), and slows the aging process in muscles and joints. Who wouldn't want all that?

The only reason people don't become more flexible is because they're not willing to put in the time. The axiom for other aspects of fitness also applies to flexibility: you get better at the things you do often. Stretching and yoga are just as important as strength conditioning and cardiovascular fitness. Stretching and yoga can replenish the natural flexibility and durability we have when we're younger. If you decide and commit to becoming less vulnerable through flexibility, you will also discover a calmness (much like meditation) that comes with stretching and yoga.

Flexibility is the Fountain of Youth. Give yourself that amazing gift. Here's to touching your toes.

Tony H.