Have you ever wished you were more flexible? Increasing flexibility can be one of the most rewarding fitness challenges. I began exploring flexibility in 2012 and often have people ask me for tips. Below are my top 10 tips for increasing flexibility. I hope these suggestions can help you in your bendy journey and inspire you to stretch!
#1. Realize that it’s NEVER too late.
Honestly, the FIRST struggle I had in my flexibility journey was believing that it was even possible. When I first started hooping I also wanted to learn contortion but sadly I never tried because deep down I didn’t believe that I could do it. Everywhere I searched online I read statements like these:
“You have to start contortion when you’re like 6.”
“If you’re an adult, you are going to have a really hard time.”
“You’re 24? You’re way too old to start contortion!”
Often we are told that children learn languages faster than adults and learning to play an instrument as an adult is incredibly difficult. We’ve all heard discouraging statements like these and they can be hard to ignore.
In the end I didn’t start bending until I was already 29 years old and honestly, I regret nothing. Whatever your age, it’s never too late to start.
#2. Stretch Everywhere
This one is pretty straightforward.
Just stretch. Everywhere. All the Time.
You’ve always got your body with you so there’s really no excuse. Try stretching while you are brushing your teeth, waiting in line, Netflixing, hanging out with friends, etc. In the beginning you’ll feel weird when stretching in public, sure people might think you are strange but who cares! It’s your body and it’s a great way to pass the time waiting in line. Over time you’ll gain confidence stretching in public and all of your friends will become used to you rolling around on their carpet.
* Remember if you aren’t fully warmed up do not stretch as intensely as you would during a training session, just do a mild stretch. Stretching casually throughout the day is also a great way to improve your cold flexibility.
#3. Set up Goals
What do you hope to accomplish from training your flexibility? Whether your goal is to become an epic back bending contortionist or to work on increasing flexibility, having concrete goals for yourself will help you to better track your progress.
Select a few key poses or moves you’d like to learn and give yourself a time frame of when you’d like to have them mastered. For example, I decided that I wanted to get “The Splits” before my 30th birthday. Having a set date gave me motivation to keep up my daily stretching. Remember that whatever happens, even if you don’t master your goals, any progress is good progress.
#4. Take it Slow
When it comes to increasing flexibility, every inch can make difference. Whatever your goal is, make sure not to overstrain or injure yourself by pushing to hard. Be sure that you are properly warmed up before going to your max.
Also remember that if you have taken a break from your flexibility training that you don’t want to push yourself as far as you may have gone in the past. Flexibility is not a linear accomplishment, you will make progress and then lose progress over and over again. Take it slow and steady.
#5. Working Through Injuries
Any athlete that practices for a significant amount of time will eventually experience an injury. Injury prevention and self care is key with flexibility training. As well, it’s important to realize that an injury doesn’t have to mean you’ve come to the end of your practice. Should you experience an injury remember to consult a physician if needed and determine how you can continue your training through the injury.
Consider taking a few rest days or practice Active Rest Days. These are days where you don’t train as you normally would but instead go for a short walk or participate in a low impact activity like swimming. Even during injury it can be important to remain active by engaging but not straining the body. Another option is to shift your focus. If you’ve injured a shoulder or your back and cannot stretch this area, shift your focus to leg and hip flexibility instead. This will help to maintain your daily practice schedule, keep up your motivation, and prevent you from feeling discouraged as you heal.
#6. Get Proper Instruction
If you have no background in flexibility training, than nothing can be more crucial to your practice than getting proper instruction. You can attend yoga classes, workshops, or sign up for an online yoga course. Try looking up circus studios in your area and see what they offer for flexibility training, contortion classes, or weekend workshops. Another option is to find a gymnastic coach, acro dance instructor, yoga or contortion teacher and ask if they offer private instruction. Use this one-on-one lesson to learn stretches and exercises that are appropriate for your specific skill level.
In the end the more knowledge you have the better, every tip can inch you closer and closer to your goal and often times even the smallest suggestion will make a huge difference in your training and progress.
#7. Have a Gym Buddy
Increasing flexibility takes time, practicing everyday will give you the greatest results. Unfortunately staying motivated can be half the challenge. To help out with this find yourself a friend to stretch with. Often times having some kind of accountability will help you follow through with your training on days you are feeling discouraged. For example, when I plan regular stretching dates with my friend Lindsay of RageYoga.com I have better follow through on my training and thus better results.
#8. Take Progress Photos
Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress you are making and having documentation is literally the BEST way for you to see it. Even if you haven’t reached your goal, having photos that show you are inching your way towards it can be incredibly inspiring.
#9. Be Inspired by Others
When I decided to work on flexibility I found Facebook groups on Contortion, started subscribing to gymnastics YouTube Channels, and following tons of yogis on Instagram. If you fill your feed with bendy people, when you wake up in the morning you’ll see their posts and be inspired to get up and bend. Here’s the most interesting reason to do this, the more you expose yourself to flexible people the more your brain begins to see this as “normal” which then teaches your body to believe it is attainable.
#10. Don’t Stop
Honestly, I’d be lying if I told you that I stretch every day… I’m just not that dedicated.
Should I stop because I can’t get myself to stretch everyday? Absolutely not, you don’t HAVE to do it everyday; obviously the more often you stretch, the better, but remember anything is better than nothing!
Sometimes I get discouraged that it’s been 5 years and I’m still not good enough to be considered a contortionist but then I realize that I’m in the best shape of my life and that makes it all worth it.
It doesn’t matter if you meet my goals, what matters is that you’re
making progress and having fun doing it.