50 for 50 Idea #3: Stretch More!

posted on: January 25, 2018
author: Brian Lomax

In my last blog post, I wrote about the value and benefits of beginning a yoga practice. This idea resonated with a lot of people, but perhaps you’re like me and you need to pay even more attention to your joint mobility and flexibility. Many people don’t focus on daily stretching, but as I have come to learn over the last couple of years, that is a habit one should consider adopting sooner rather than later.

I’ve been playing tennis for over 40 years and there’s a ton of repetitive motion involved in this sport. It’s conditioned my joints and muscles to move in certain ways which have become more or less locked in. For example, because of the forward swing in tennis, I have difficulty reaching behind me especially with my right arm. All the tension is in the shoulder joint and the movement is restricted. My ankles, knees, hips, wrists and elbows all have similar issues. When I worked with a personal trainer a few years ago, there were certain exercises that I couldn’t do because I didn’t have the required range of motion in my joints. That was kind of embarrassing. I’ve always thought of myself as a good athlete and there I was unable to do a few basic exercises. Without focused work, that’s likely to get worse and worse in the future.

A couple of years ago, I listened to a Tim Ferriss Show podcast and his guest was Christopher Sommer, who was a former coach of the USA Gymnastics Junior National Team. Coach Sommer was discussing the strength training of gymnasts and it occurred to me that gymnasts might be some of the strongest athletes on the planet while also being extremely flexible and mobile. I was intrigued by the discussion and decided to purchase Coach Sommer’s Gymnastics Bodies training program as an experiment to see how it could help me.

Aside from fundamental movements and a foundational set of exercises, a major part of the program is 3 different stretching workouts each lasting approximately 45 minutes. These sessions are HARD. I need to modify several of the stretches to accommodate for my range of motion issues, and a few of them are outright impossible at the moment. Perhaps in a couple of years I’ll be able to get to those. However, after finishing one of these stretching videos, I feel great and the feeling lasts for a few days at least. I also notice that I’m faster on the tennis court because of this. That’s a pretty cool benefit. While my flexibility has improved, this is a long-term journey. I’m not even close to where I need to be or would like to be. Reworking connective tissue like tendons and ligaments takes time and patience, and therefore is a commitment. Check in with me when I turn 60 to see how I’m doing! 🙂

So how much do you stretch? The combination of strength, mobility and flexibility will help your athletic performance, and you’ll feel a lot better everyday. You don’t have to go all-out crazy like me with a gymnastics training program, but look into dynamic and static stretching programs so that you can start intentionally working on specific joints based on your mobility issues. Start small so you can establish the habit and see where it takes you. Just like I noticed being a little faster on the tennis court, you will likely notice some unexpected benefit from adopting this practice. I look forward to hearing about it.

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/

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