Flexibility is one of the five essential components (Strength Training, Cardiovascular Training, Proper Nutrition, Flexibility & Rest) that we as fitness professionals preach to our clients, yet it’s frequently abandoned. Let’s all be open and honest here for a second. How often do you personally, or have you seen exercises, go through a routine and then decide to skip stretching for any number of reasons like:
- You’re tired and want to go home
- It doesn’t normally make you sweat
- It doesn’t provide the immediate results that our society looks for
- It doesn’t give you that workout pump
- Or, honestly you don’t think that it makes that much of a difference
Sharing our personal struggles, experiences and success stories often helps to gain a closer bond and builds trust between you and your clients. So, with that said I’d also like to build our trust and share my own personal story (and a very humbling experience) regarding the lack of flexibility within my own program.
I believe it was 2002 when I was working in Boston as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. My weight was probably around 225lbs (body fat % “unknown” or let’s just say mid to high teens) and it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the level of fitness and leanness that I desired. Along with this personal wellness battle, I was also starting to notice some lower back pain. At the time this seemed really odd to me, because I thought I practiced what I preached and basically lived as a fitness professional should w/ proper fitness and nutritional habits. It didn’t make sense to me why I would be struggling because this was my job and I did this for a living. Do age and a slowing metabolism creep up on us this fast?
To make a long story short (if I’m capable of doing that… probably not… but, here it goes) I met with a massage therapist and after a few failed attempts to stretch my extremely tight hamstrings and hip flexors, with me emphatically screaming throughout the entire session (sort of like Steve Carol from 40 Year Old Virgin… OOOOHHHHHH Kelly Clarkson). She then preceded to hand me a business card and referred me to a personal trainer who was part of NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). This next part is for the NASM certified trainers out there (and please don’t take this personal). Back in the day (and when my ego was bigger and knowledge was limited) a personal trainer friend and I had our own acronym for NASM, we use to call them the Nazi Association of Stretching Maniacs. I guess the real humor behind it is that I’m not only certified through NASM now, but I’m also a CEU provider and preach on a daily basis how much it has changed my life. So, I’m thinking that the joke was really on me.
To be completely honest this was a pretty humbling experience in my life, but because I also prided myself in remaining teachable at all times I agreed to meet this fitness professional. The trainer brought me through what was called a movement assessment, which sort of made me feel like a caveman trying to stand upright for the first time (not fun). The feedback that I received from this trainer wasn’t something that I hadn’t heard of before but presented in a manner I hadn’t really taken the time to fully understand. The diagnosis for my lower body was that my quads were dominating everything that I did and because of that my hamstrings were incredibly tight and my glutes were inactive and weren’t working much at all. He gave me a similar basic reasoning for my upper body too. I had strong (Chest), tight (Back or Lats) and weak (Mid to Lower Back, Rotator Cuff) muscles, that were all playing a significant role in my inability to produce power because of a limited range of motion. So to make a long story short (I know too late), my biggest problem was my lack of flexibility in my routine. Now it was up to me to get over the fact that it wasn’t going to be easy and most likely it would be a bit painful.
The question now became… How bad did I want it? To what length was I willing to go to change my body, the way I looked and felt? It didn’t happen overnight, so it was going to be a very slow process, but that’s the point! If we’re (meaning our clients and ourselves) not willing to put the work in, always looking for the quick fix or the easy way to shed unwanted pounds or body fat, then we just need to be prepared for the quick rebound, frustrations, plateau’s as well as an injury or two. Back in the day (1997-2005) my flexibility consisted of 2-3 minutes (if that) at the end of whatever class I was teaching, holding each stretch for maybe 10 seconds or so if I wasn’t in a hurry. If this routine sounds familiar to you, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your own flexibility as well as your clients. I hate to say it but at this point, you would be doing a disservice to your health club, your clients or members and to yourself if you don’t take a harder look at our own flaws. And, remember it is ok to have flaws. Realistically there is no perfection.
Fast forward to 2013 and for me, flexibility still plays a major role in my recipe of wellness with 7-10 minutes of active and dynamic stretching, as well as foam rolling before exercise and 7-10 minutes of static stretching after my workouts or classes. Fortunately for me, it didn’t take an injury to teach me this lifelong lesson, but it could have. Trust me when I say it is well worth taking the time to reevaluate yourself and your client’s current wellness regimen.
What are the Benefits of Flexibility Training?
Improved performance, Improves range of motion, reduced soreness, and lower back pain, increased blood flow to the body, improved coordination, keeps you active and mobile as you age and it feels good… Well, eventually it feels good.
Train Smarter, Not Harder
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“If you're going to PREACH IT, do yourself & the people you're influencing a favor & LIVE IT!What do I love? To dance, suspension train, jump & move athletically... Did I mention DANCE?”
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