Tried everything to get flexible? Do more mobility work than a monk up a mountain and still nothing? No you’re not a special case that just can’t get flexible, there is something you have to take into account:
Just like you have days that you feel great and motivated to do anything, your flexibility can alter on a day to day basis also. We don’t take this into account any more than “Oh, I feel a bit stiff today”, but sometimes there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.. and sometimes, you can get hurt by ignoring warning signals.
First of all lets talk about the more common one that everyone knows – Fatigue and over stressing your muscles.
I and many of my friends are chronic “over trainers” – literally we love moving so much that if we could squeeze three sessions in a day we would. The accumulated effect is that primary mover muscles start to take a back seat due to fatigue, and all the small little stabiliser boys have to do more than they want to. Then, when you have exasperated them, the joints step up to take the brunt of your heavy ass. When a joint gets pissed off it will basically send signals to your brain to either hurt you, or switch you off: you’ll be launching for a backflip and your hamstrings will literally say “Fuck you buddy” pop, snap, WADOOSH.
The lesson to learn here is: when you’re too sore from training, recovery is key! Light cardio, dial back on the high skill movements and let your body reset to zero again.
Number 2? Am I going with numbers? Think I might, I’m sure Jenni will edit this bit out anyways and you’ll never see it – Dehydration, drink water.
Drink more water than you think you should then drink some more, then do calve raises while you have to pee thirty times an hour. I don’t talk much about nutrition as I just don’t deem myself smart enough to educate others about it, BUT I will say that I notice improvements with EVERYONE across the board when they up their water intake.
We all know we’re made up mainly of water, so the quality of your tissues do rely on it. Build habits: make it a goal to have 3 massive glasses as soon as you get up. When you arrive to work, when you go to the bathroom, just set triggers that will make it an automatic response. If you’re having a pure mobility session, every time you take a break have a massive drink. Don’t buy small bottles, only buy massive 2L ones and always have a reserve.
The takeaway: Always keep well hydrated, drinking water will make a big difference to your mobility.
I was recently talking to someone with diabetes and they have struggled with their flexibility also like me. I have an auto immune disorder that causes me to have symptoms similar to severe eczema, only none of the treatments for eczema work… it’s a bit shit. That major full body dehydration will cause me to not be able to move my neck, bend my knees or elbows properly and reaching overhead would cause my armpits to rip (see Number 2 point). This puts my body under tremendous stress and pain (see First point) therefore making it feel threatened. It will actively decrease my range of motion, assuming I am injured and create tightness for no reason.
If I ignore the tightness and try to crack on anyway and I generally get hurt. This can be applied to a lot of conditions and a lot of people, if your body isn’t 100% happy it will react and no one really takes illness or gut health into account. If your body is in pain it doesn’t want to move, no matter how many motivational videos you watch. Sometimes you have to listen to your body. Focusing on managing whatever illness you may have is your best bet. A lot of times you’ll get setbacks, or feel like you’re getting nowhere but my advice to you is: tough shit, work harder, rest when you need to, then work even harder. We can’t all have perfect training backgrounds and perfect health and I’ll be damned if I ever let it stop me.
Remember: Always listen to your body – there’s a difference between pushing through and being stupid.
Bullet point…Ha! Past Injuries and Pain Memory:
If you have hurt something before, there will be a pain memory. When we get hurt our body adapts to assist the healing process, muscles reorganise to take the strain off the affected area. In a lot of cases people don’t retrain the joint after an injury has “healed” leaving themselves open to a relapse. Even if you have worked on your flexibility since an injury, hurting that same area again will revert your body back to pre-rehab state: you hurting your elbow a second time could affect the flexibility of your hips! Then what happens? You decide to start squatting until your elbow heals now all of a sudden your knee hurts, and you just start to feel incredibly unlucky.
In conclusion: Any time you hurt something don’t assume that because the pain is away that the joint is functioning correctly again.
5. Hormones and feelings.
This is a weird one. Obviously if someone is highly stressed they’re going to be tense, being tense affects your mobility – it’s why drunk people can fall sometimes and not get hurt; they’re too wasted to tense up. I use it as an example all the time, you get pissed off at work, your husband/wife annoys you, you need training more than ever and you’re overhead pressing and hurt your neck… it wasn’t the press’s fault, you were just so tense and stiff something had to give.
Hormones in general are a bitch. If you’re not balanced properly then even despite you thinking you’re happy enough, your body could be feeling a completely different way. Keeping stress out of your life, getting enough sleep and downtime are all ridiculously important when your flexibility is concerned. Even weirder again, it’s possible to TALK people more flexible, literally by explaining how something works I can get instant improvements, it still amazes me. Professional athletes jobs are basically to not have stress anywhere in their lives so they can max out on stress through their training. There are supplements that help with stress, and tests that will tell you what you are lacking in that are definitely worth researching into.
My advice: Without trying to give out life lessons, if something is pissing you off consistently, get rid of it.
F) I’m actually going to message Jenni now and say she is not allowed to change these as it will ruin the feel of the blog (**Editors note** he actually did)
This is a killer, like my skin condition, people can be dealing with low levels of inflammation and not even know it. Your diet has a massive influence on how your joints and tissues act. If I have bread and milk my skin will instantly tell me I messed up and the joint pain will happen. Most people will maybe have a bit of a bloated stomach, not think anything of it – and later think they have random joint pain.
Just because your body doesn’t look unhappy on the outside it doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong inside. Inflammation can be caused by so many different foods and allergies it’s definitely worth looking into. Everyone should work with a professional nutritionist at some point, just to learn this stuff.
What to do: If you keep having unexplained pains and your training is on point, go after your gut.
The key to everything. If your breathing is dysfunctional your body will follow. I have made people fitter by simply teaching them how to control their breath when moving, practice is all it takes. But even more simply, next time you’re sitting in a stretch or doing a mobility drill, just take a deep ass breath in and a long breathe out, you’ll notice a difference straight away.
So: As often as you remember, focus on your breathing.
**** Last one – Shit happens.
Truthfully you can eat Paleo, have no job but unlimited money, amazing flexibility and still get hurt, life just kicks you in the balls sometimes. I have only touched on a few things I have experienced over the years in this blog, and I am still meeting new people that don’t follow regular patterns or documented “issues”. No two people are the same, and personally as a coach, having as many tools in your basket as possible is essential for working with people. Every now and again you can meet someone you can’t help, and that is when you refer out! Never be scared to say that you don’t know. Even the greatest experts in any field admit, the more you learn the less you feel like you know.
Never forget: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.