Last week I realized something: I am not as flexible as I thought. I always thought that I'm better than average person, but all that sitting and running has done it's job. This and next month, my goal is to get into the routine of stretching and by doing that, increase flexibility in my body.
At this moment, I have three major fitness goals:
1) To be able to do a pistol squat. Right now, I can barely do one one a bench, meaning that my squatting leg is elevated. Like this:
2) Learn to do a handstand. At this moment, I can stay upside down for about five seconds, before falling back or over.
3) Do more than one proper chin ups. Here's where I am now: I can do one, and in a good day, maybe two.
I practice with and without the resistance band and I really hope to make some progression soon.
Why Can't I Do Pistols?
But back to pistols. One thing that keeps me from doing them properly is that I am not able to fully extend my one leg, e.g not the one squatting, but the other one. It seems that I just can't straighten it all the way, and even if I can for a second, I am not able to hold it like this for longer time.
There are also other problems like weakness, obviously 🙂
Also L-sits are incredibly hard for me for the same reason. I just can't get my legs straight and hold them that way.
While I know that all these bodyweight exercises require a lot of strength, I probably have tight hamstrings that prevent me from doing things like pistol squats and L-sits. Makes sense, because tight hamstrings is something that many runners deal with.
Even though I don't think about myself as that much of a runner anymore, I used to run a lot and stretch only whenever I had nothing to do (and I usually did. I'm never bored!). Running was my only form of exercise for about six years and my weekly mileage was about 37-55 miles, so there you go…
Total Eye-Opener – I Need To Increase My Flexibility!
Last week I had a chance to train with someone who was incredibly flexible. A lot of very strong and muscular people are usually not that flexible, but this guy was different.
He used to practice CrossFit for years and is now focusing on olympic weightlifting and calisthenics. This guy could do pistols, pull ups and various exercises on gymnastic rings like they were the easiest things in the world. But also his flexibility was impressive.
When I looked at him and many other students in the class, I realized that even though I do spend some time on stretching here and there, it's clearly not enough and I should do so much more. Especially if I ever want to get anywhere with my pistols or L-sits.
Improving Flexibility Takes Time
When you want to gain strength, it's usually pretty easy to hit new PR-s, at least at first. That's especially true with free weights, like dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells. In the beginning, it seems that you can add another plate to your bar pretty much every week.
Bodyweight strength seems to take longer. It takes a lot of work to do the first chin up – at least mine took a looong time.
Improving flexibility is similar to that. Flexibility doesn't improve overnight and it takes a lot of practice and dedication.
My Winter Challenge
I don't usually do challenges or give resolutions, but I've decided that stretching and improving my flexibility are something I just need to invest some time into if I want to get anywhere with my pistols.
So, I have decided to spend 30 minutes every day on stretching until the end of February. I started two days ago.
The end of February would be my first milestone, just to see how I feel by then. I know that there will be quite a bit of traveling and spending time at friends houses during this time, so I already know that I may not be able to stick with it 100 % (if there only was a bit of space to stretch in the airplane)!
However, I do want to start now, because there is never perfect time for starting with things like this. There are always social events, parties, busy times at work etc. That's why there is no point of waiting and I better get started now.
So, my goal is to stretch every day. Hamstrings will be in my main focus, but obviously I will work on other parts of my body as well.
Why You Should Join Me
Even if pistols are not your goal, I encourage you to take this challenge too. Want a couple of more reasons why you should stretch? Here you are:
Improve your range of motion. You know how annoying it is when everything seems to be so tight that it almost prevents you from moving properly? Getting up from the bed or chair, bending and turning can be especially uncomfortable.
Get better at your workouts. When your muscles are super tight, there's a good chance that your exercise technique is not that awesome either. For example, if your muscles are very tight, you simply can't do a proper squat or push up. (Of course, these exercises have a lot to do with joint mobility as well).
Decrease pain. So many people suffer from back and neck pains. They go get massages and take Advil… But instead of numbing the pain, we should start from addressing the cause, which can be tight muscles. Also, the reason that is causing the pain and the place where you feel the pain may be two totally different locations (if you have a back pain, it may easily be caused by tight hamstrings etc). Stretching definitely alleviates some pain.
Stretching just makes you feel so good. The feeling of loosening up is awesome. Stretching may be a bit uncomfortable, and you shouldn't push it too hard, because then your body will want to protect you and even add some tension. As a result, you won't improve our flexibility as much as you were hoping. But if you get into deeper stretches slowly, step by step, you get the feeling of amazing relaxation.
So, I am definitely going to work on my flexibility! Here we go: 30 minutes every day for the last week of January and whole month of February. I do it as well as I can and as my travels let me.
I would love you to join me! You don't have to do it every day and 30 minutes, just stick to some kind of routine that you think would fit into your schedule.
Let me know if you are in!
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Thank you for that great refresher about the need to be flexible. I have been sticking with my new year’s resolution about working out regularly but just did not do any stretching at all. So now I will be reviewing my weekly working-out plan to include at least three days of stretching after working out. But I do not have a stretching plan or how to proceed. It would be awesome if you can give us all some guidelines. Thanking you for all the awesome healthy information you give out.
Kersten Kimura says
Hi Marilyn! I totally get you, the workout itself is the first thing we want to get done, and stretching tends to be the “if I have time later” thing… But I can tell that I feel more loose and tiny bit more flexible even after just about one week of constant stretching every night.
I’m planning on doing a post on my stretching routine soon!
I hope you achieved your goal of increasing your flexibility. I too am working on my pistol squat. Still at the narrow stance squat stage but I’ll get there. I’ve definitely seen improvement with my flexibility and functionality over the last month.
Kersten Kimura says
Hi Ola! That’s great that you have made progression. What kind of flexibility and functionality work have you done? I can see a little bit of improvement with my flexibility but there is still a long way to go.