ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Flexibility
Critical Concept: Our strength is in our flexibility
There are obvious parallels between physical and psychological flexibility. These aspects of our lives are governed by the same laws. Mastery over one will allow you to easily master the other. Increasing your flexibility in either domain requires equal parts will, skill and trust. As you reach the outer limits of either mental ease or tissue integrity, you experience a peculiar sensation of insecurity. This position is uncomfortable. But isn’t that the idea?
Flexibility is under-rated. People spend too much time in the Comfort Zone. The human animal thrives on stress, adaptation and repair cycles. Our day is comprised of a complex system of challenges, communications and interactions. For the most part, we get to choose the degree to which we engage life. Each day presents with a myriad of opportunities to get stretched. Look for them.
If you pay attention, you can feel individual fibers exploring new ranges of motion. This is true for the body and the mind. When you choose to move from the Comfort Zone to the Stretch Zone mentally or physically, you form new synapses that help you cope more effectively in the future. There isa plastic effect that will expand your capacities as long as you continue to draw on them. What you feel is the expansion of your scope.
If the heat in the kitchen goes up, you’ll find yourself at the next level: the Stress Zone. It’s where big dogs play, things hit the fan and rubber meets the road. There are two truths regarding this zone:
1. It’s a nice place to visit, but you don’t want to live there.
2. It’s where growth happens.
Beyond this point, at the center of these concentric rings, is the no-go zone: the Break-Down Zone. Our brains and spirits are a lot like our joints - under constant duress and strain, they break down, whereas if they are underutilized, they decay and become arthritic. Everyone spends some time in the breakdown lane at some point in their life, but those who invest the time to learn how to change a tire get “back on their way” much faster.
If our strength is in our flexibility, how do you know when to say “when?”
I’ll offer this heuristic (rule of thumb): when increased flexibility will strengthen the situation, stretch. The fabric of our lives will behave much like the tissues of our bodies. When we choose to warm up properly, practice and stretch out before the stress of the game or workout, our capacities expand, injuries are reduced, and our strength and performance improves.
Follow this order: warm-up, then workout, then stretch.
Often people will try to stretch before they warm up. This is a bad idea. Never try to stretch a cold tissue. Always start your activities or workouts with a gentle, yet progressive warm up. Increase blood flow to tissues first, this will increase their pliability and reduce the chance of injury. It is acceptable to lightly stretch through your activity, but again - make sure that this is done progressively. Stretching at the end of your routine is a vital behavior. Never rush the end of the workout or skip this element. A key to achieving your fitness goals is consistent training over time. In other words, you must avoid injury. Stretching regularly will not only increase your performance, range of motion and comfort, it will mitigate injury as well.
In order to have an extraordinary life, you have to make extraordinary choices. Listen to your life, seek out the “rubs” - the insecurities and the limitations. Lean into them, relax and exhale. Change your interpretation of that burn and trust. Just know that on the other side of it you’ll be stronger, even if you might be a little sore, a little uncomfortable. But isn’t that the idea?
- Add activity every day in every way
- Calculate Energy Balance
- Add Functional Training
- Use variety in your workouts
- Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
- Gradually progress to a higher intensity
- Adopt the Buddy System
- Get your spine checked by a chiropractor
- Do what moves you – have fun, employ Goal Setting and Clear Standards
- Increase your flexibility