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Monday
Jul212014

How Flexibility Affects Fitness

We understand the benefits of cardiovascular conditioning and resistance training, but how exactly does flexibility fit into the greater fitness picture? Whether you're becoming active again after many years of sedentary living or are working toward performance related goals, enhancing flexibility can support your fitness vision. Many of us have memories of gym class stretching, but exercise science has come a long way since then! Read on for more information about the benefits of flexibility and the variety of safe stretching techniques you can use in your workout routine.

Causes of Stiffness

Lack of Stability

It’s important to first understand some basics around joint range of motion (ROM). There are many factors at any given time that can reduce ROM - either chronic or acute. An important and less understood point is that whenever you increase ROM at a particular joint, you want to ensure that ROM is stable. With improved stability of a joint comes increased mobility of a joint. If a joint is unstable, the body will protect the joint by tightening up muscles that surround the joint.

Lack of Movement

Whether you’re sedentary at work or you’re just waking up from a quality eight hours of rest, your joints have become comfortable in their lack of movement - so much so, in fact, that they become stiff. This is normal. In keeping with this fact, the best thing you can do upon waking is MOVE! Watch your pets as they get up from a nap. As soon as they wake up, they stretch out their joints before they’re ready to play. Your body is no different, and the same principle holds for your wakeful day. If you’re sedentary each hour of the day, your body becomes comfortable in that position. The longer you sit, the harder it is for your muscles to loosen up and respond to movement. Incorporating at least 10 minutes of movement each hour is essential to increase and maintain flexibility.  

Benefits of Improving Flexibility

Decreased risk of injury

Joint injuries typically occur when a joint is unstable and taken into a ROM that is unfamiliar. With more stable ROM, your body will be much more prepared for varied activities - whether it’s a pick-up game of basketball, a new workout routine or even a seasonal household project.

Increased muscular performance

Whether your goal is to improve strength or increase endurance, flexibility can be a limiting factor if it’s not included in your training plan. As it pertains to strength training, the more ROM you can accomplish with stability, the more the muscles are able to develop and grow. Additionally, without effective ROM in endurance activity like running or swimming, your actual effort will be doubled, maybe tripled. By increasing your stability and flexibility, your body will perform much more efficiently in your endurance event.

Improved posture

With lack of activity over time, we begin to lose the battle with gravity. Our bodies become more and more familiar with poor posture. Pain may also accompany poor posture. Incorporating flexibility work in your movement routine can pay significant dividends for improving your posture and reducing or eliminating joint pain.

Techniques to Improve Flexibility

So, you’re sold on the concept of flexibility and are ready to add some components to your movement routine. It’s important to acknowledge that every body responds uniquely to different flexibility techniques. Remember, the best type of ROM is one that is stable. Here are some examples of various techniques that may be used to increase stable range of motion and, thereby, improve safe flexibility.

Static Stretching

There are two types of static stretching: active and passive. Active stretching means that you are adding force to the stretch to its maximal position and holding it for 30 seconds or more. Passive is a similar concept but uses a partner or machine to increase intensity. It’s important to note that if you chose to stretch statically, it should primarily be implemented at the end of your movement/exercise routine. Many experts question this technique and its perceived benefits, and some even suggest that static stretching may cause irritation or injury. In keeping with these concerns, proceed with caution.

Dynamic Stretching

This type of stretching is often targeted toward a specific sport or movement within a sport. Sometimes it requires movement continuously through ROM that mimics the specific movement within a sport. An example may be a golfer continuously swinging a golf club with repetition, gradually increasing the ROM until he/she has worked up to a full golf swing. For more on general dynamic stretching and warm-up activities, check out this previous Flourish article.

AIS: Active Isolated Stretching

This is a type of dynamic stretching technique that can be accomplished alone or with a professional’s assistance. The method has a very strategic approach of targeting muscles that can show significant benefit to increasing ROM while minimizing risk of trauma. You can find more information about AIS here.

SMR: Self Myofascial Release (a.k.a. Foam Rolling)

For this technique, you can use your own body weight to determine the amount of pressure applied to “massage away” any restrictions in your soft tissues (e.g. muscle, tendon, ligaments, or fascia). If you’re going to use a foam roller, I would recommend starting with a soft roller to avoid causing trauma to the tissue. 

Manual Joint Therapy

There are many other manual joint therapy modalities that may require a professional to manipulate the body to allow for greater ROM. Some of these include Muscle Activation Techniques, PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation), or even massage.

Improving your flexibility can offer significant benefits to your health and fitness and even your overall quality of life. If you’re still unsure about how to start, seek out advice from a health and fitness professional, who can offer his/her educated guidance on which technique is best for you. It’s never too late to gain the benefits of stretching. Start today!

Do you incorporate flexibility work in your exercise routine? Which techniques have you tried? Share your feedback and questions, and thanks for reading.

Written by Mitchell Keyes – Life Time Training, NASM-CES, NASM-PES, RTS-123, MAT Graduate

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

 

Saturday
Jul192014

Must-Have Motivation: 7 Coaches Share Their Top Insights

As key as nutrition and fitness are to weight loss, the process itself is continually fueled by our mental commitment. Motivation is a critical resource for every step of the journey. How do we initiate our process or jumpstart our beginning efforts? How do we maintain a positive mindset in the face of plateaus or other difficulties? How do we build our motivation and momentum over time? Check out 7 perspectives below care of our Flourish experts and their professional weight loss coaching and training experience! See which mantras speak to your process, and add the concepts that have motivated you along the way of your weight loss or transformation progress!

 

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Wednesday
Jul162014

8 Uncommon Tips for Women’s Wellness

When it comes to women’s health, it’s a complicated matter. A woman’s function and health are impacted by an intricate balance of hormone systems such as adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormones. As women progress through the decades of life, hormones ebb and flow and can knock each other off track. This oftentimes creates more challenge in attaining optimal health and weight loss goals as women age. The good news is that we have control over our hormones and genes by what we choose to do or not do in our lives. Many factors impact hormone balance such as nutrition, supplementation, exercise, stress management, sleep, and the environment. Below you will find 8 tips for women’s wellness and optimizing hormone balance.

 

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Monday
Jul142014

10 Creative Ideas for Moving More

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or an exercise novice, you likely know that moving more is a must for better health. Daily movement, research shows, is likely even more important than bouts of intensive exercise (but including both is the real ticket!). The best way to incorporate new activity or amp up your current routine is to keep it simple. What are you currently doing that you could slightly tweak or improve? Where in your day could you make time (even 2 minutes) for yourself? The key for increasing how much and how often we move may just be re-imagining our routines with an eye for activity potential.

 

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Sunday
Jul132014

15 Foods That Don’t Deserve Their Health Halo

The produce department manager, George, at my local grocery store once told me he’s responsible for about 500-600 fresh produce items, most of which he has to turn over (arrange and sell) within 36 hours to meet store standards for freshness and appearance. He takes pride in his job, and he says he would much rather work with produce than (in his words) “deal with the mess of the other 40,000 packaged crap customers think is food.” The way George sees it, if food isn’t fresh then it doesn’t deserve any hype. In a way, I think he’s got it right. The wrong foods tend to get the most promotion in our marketing culture, while the best choices remain the proverbial wallflowers. Check out 15 foods below that don’t deserve their health halos, and add your thoughts on food product fanfare.

 

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Wednesday
Jul092014

Recipe Round-up: Summer Picnics

The summer season invites us to live outdoors, and meals are no exception. Sometimes that means eating al fresco on the patio. Other times it's eating on the go while we're out "adventuring." Cue the classic summer picnic! There's so much more to pack, however, than the typical sandwich, chip and cookie rundown. (Can anyone say carb overload?) Fortunately, we don't have to abandon our healthy goals for the sake of tradition - or convenience. Check out these ideas for healthy picnic options to fill your basket this weekend.

 

 

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Monday
Jul072014

Finding Your Fitness Path: Workout Tips for Every Personality

One of the main reasons people flounder in a fitness journey is declining motivation. While we build mental as well as physical endurance over time, working out shouldn’t feel like a chore or mile after mile of aggravating time and effort. Our fitness mindset and motivation is, in part, tied to how well our exercise endeavors fit us as individuals. With all the variety possible, fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition! To best direct our fitness journeys, we should take into consideration not only our exercise goals and current health status but also our personalities and preferences. When we tap into both our aspirations and our interests, our likelihood of succeeding and continuing fitness long term increases exponentially! Read on to learn how-to tips for aligning your personality with your fitness path.

 

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