If my first goal with flexibility was simply to become the most flexible I could, now that I've seen how far I can push myself, I've slightly changed that initial goal into a healthier, long term, safer one.
When I was looking for flexibility coaches, I had to do a long and grueling search that led me many times nowhere. Living in Las Vegas, you'd think I have it easy right? With all the shows, artists and performers.
Since little, I was taught that being active was a natural part of life. Moving, using our body - instead of just passively living in it- develops coordination, proprioception and is the foundation of learning skills. I was playing outside, running around with my bicycle, doing sports... Few years later, when I started weight training, it didn't take me long to figure that results required sacrifices. I wasn't playing around anymore, I wanted to see my body changing and being able to do extraordinary stuff. I was a young girl ready and willing to step it up.
me at 23ish training at Gold's Gym, Miami Beach
If you train with purpose you need a certain lifestyle. This lifestyle has high demands and you make daily decisions in favor or against it. Not always you can put your training as first priority, but you should always try: only so you'll see the changes you wish to see, or the skills you wish to learn taking form.
Your energy and performance level depend on sleep, diet, habits, rest.
A sleepless night doesn't kill you, but if you train you know what a key role sleeping plays in recovery. There is no progress without sleep, and often you'll have to pick between a night of party (fun!) or a night of sleep (sometimes boring) that will assure you a great condition for training hard the day after. I used to turn down all parties! But then I learned that I can always come home early and still get good sleep, or planning a day off the day after I have a night out.
I definitely partied on my B-day :D
Diet is something else that has a huge impact on training. You are what you eat, seriously! So be a broccoli :) lol just kidding, but vegetables should be ALWAYS included in your meals, if not all, most! Also lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats. AND A LOT OF WATER. Simple, clean food you can distinguish the ingredients in it. Example of something I'm having often lately: brown rice, olive oil, steamed veggies, smoked salmon, lemon juice.
I love local markets!
You also need good habits. There's a time to eat, a time to train, a time to sleep, a time to work. I know sounds boring, but your body is a simple machine that performs best when it's used to something. Even with training, pick a time and make your body used to the fact that you train at lunch time or late afternoon. This also will help to remind yourself to be more consistent without forgetting sessions.
Another good habit has to do with avoiding drugs and alcohol. I still have to find an athlete who do drugs or drink and doesn't find it deadly on the body (one drink sometimes is fine, binge drinking is not). A trained body is a highly functional body and it's very susceptible to drugs, drugs are not for the healthy athlete who cares about their performances and have love for their body.
healthy body happy bending Last but definitely not least...Rest. Sometimes you need to do nothing! It's precious time your body needs to recharge. Rest is not sleep, it's actually having a day a week or two where you don't physically tire yourself. It's somehow hard to take days off when you're used to train every day, you either worry that a day off will halt your progress or you actually don't know what to do with your time off - lol I had that feeling many times. But now I take time off to rest and be lazy and drive around or watch a movie, because I remind myself I work hard so I feel I deserve it :)
Strong. Capable. Confident. Healthy. Younger: definitely consequences that are worth the sacrifices!
All my life I've been quite stubborn and thought I could figure things out on my own, like when I was doing fitness modeling and preparing for fitness competitions, dieting etc I never had a coach and learned everything through mistakes, studies and trial and error. When I decided I wanted to become more flexible though I was short on knowledge and it seemed so hard to find valuable information. I tried yoga and some stretches I had seen around, reminiscences of ballet and foam rolling. I really couldn't figure much out on my own though and online and on books there were either extremely advanced poses or too simple ones. It was very helpful when I started taking flexibility group classes and I learned things like warm ups and exercises using blocks and yoga belt.
But only with one on one training under the supervision of my coach I began to really improve fast and understand a lot about my body.
There are many benefits of training with a good coach (I was lucky to find one of the best, I know not all coaches might share the qualities I'm going to list), those are just few examples :
A coach has been there
Whenever you feel sore, stuck, hurt etc, your coach knows exactly what you're going through. They've been there before you, and through their experience, they can help you.
A coach is emotional support
Whether you're extremely happy because you did a hard move for the first time or you're very sad because your body can't bend that day, your coach is there and will likely celebrate your success or reassure you.
A coach is a motivator
Some days you feel you should skip stretching. Or you are just not in the mood. Or you didn't sleep well or you worked so much and have no energy. A good coach will push you these days and after you'll thank them for doing that.
A coach knows more than you
This is pretty obvious but great, because they will guide you and will make you avoid mistakes, correct imbalances and personalize your training.
A coach understands your body
This is important because sometimes you can't be objective about what's happening in your body, you're not sure what's bending in your back or how something is supposed to feel. Being inside your body and dealing with all these new feelings can be confusing and scary! Your coach will answer your questions and doubts so that you know you're doing things correctly and can focus on your training rather than panicking.
A coach is support
Literally, because some exercises there is no way you can do them on your own, you need someone to push, pull and support your body to improve and challenge your imaginary limits. Your coach is also a mental support, because won't let you be down if you're having a bad day or let your fears or worries prevail over your desire of being flexible!
Those are some examples I experienced with my coach :) If you're very serious about flexibility I suggest you to have a coach and see them often enough.
My coach !
I used to think that with good motivation, dedication and correct training nothing really could have stopped me and everything would have come to me "easy", work smoothly, with no major interruptions. I thought success (as in training progress) was a straight arrow, slowly but steadily keep pointing up. But training contortion I had to rethink my vision of success and improvement. The arrow, no matter how much motivation, dedication and hard work, NOT always goes straight up, it actually gets stuck, goes down, then up again, etc.
Your body has its own ways to accept changes (=improve), sometimes it listen to you, other times it doesn't. Your body is a very complex mix of bones, tissues, muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, organs, fluids operated through more complex systems of chemical reactions, hormones, fed by oxygen and nutrients. All of this strives to work in harmony and keep you safe: that's your body's main job. Often times in training you have to push your body to get out of this safe and comfortable zone and so it gets scared, send all sort of inflammation signals and alarms, gets sore and uncomfortable, but eventually IT ADAPTS, because you (your mind) rule, not the other way around.
So this is why success is not a straight upright arrow, because you are not simply a machine, and your body has to work its ways (get sore, strengthen, adapt, slow down, get inflamed, slow down, heal, strengthen, adapt, get sore...!) to adapt to the changes you want to see. You also need to respect your body and know when it needs a break, because it's really the place you live in for your whole life.
Sometime no matter how motivated, you can't improve, you feel going backward, or stuck, even for weeks. This doesn't mean it's over and you won't improve anymore. The good news is, if you keep your head in the game and don't panic thinking you're broken and will never see progress again, you'll keep improving. Those bad times test your will and determination, as well as your patience: if you get over them, you are a step ahead, mentally and physically.
So bottom line is, success is not an upright arrow, you need to push your body out of its comfort zone, yet be understanding and have patience. Work with it, don't fight it, Things will work out :)