Most people think of their workout as one of two things: strength training or cardio.
Is it that simple? No.
What good is being able to lift heavy, if you can’t even lift your arms behind you?! In order to avoid unnecessary pain, tension, and reduce the risk of injury, flexibility needs to be the cornerstone of any fitness routine – especially for beginners.
I discovered this conundrum way too late in the game, and thus have been working hard on my flexibility and mobility for the past 9 months. Unfortunately this means that almost everything else, including running, is taking a backseat.
Right before my last half marathon in August of 2015, I developed a “tight spot” in my hamstring, just behind the left knee. Since my right knee is typically the one giving me problems, I found it unusual. But I ran the race anyway. Obviously I ended up in terrible pain from the ankle up, with no clue as to how to treat it.
In retrospect, if I had known just how long it would take to work out this “tight spot,” I would have scratched the race entirely and gone home.
Knowing what I know now, I have significantly increased my mobility and as a result I’m majorly improving my posture and stride.
If you stretch every time you work out and still feel tight, odds are you are not putting enough weight into your stretches. It’s very important to incorporate either your own body weight, or some small hand weights into your stretching routine to ensure you’re pushing the muscle past its normal limit.
Draw from the schools of yoga and pilates, where many of the stretches look quite simple but will have you huffing and puffing after a 30-second hold!
Lean your weight and flex your muscle into the stretch until you “feel the burn,” and hold it, no matter how relaxing the pose is.
Lunges are another great way to increase flexible strength. I used to hate them because they hurt my knees, but I quickly learned that if you start with little lunges, it’s easier to work your way up to the real thing.
Focus hard on keeping a straight spine anytime you squat or lunge. Side lunges are some of my favorite exercises for that “tight spot” in my hamstring.
As far as hand weights go, I have seen drastic improvement in my posture by using 2.5lb, 5lb or 7.5lb weights to do some basic arm mobility exercises. Controlled up-and-down movements with shoulder blades back will really help you improve shoulder strength and posture while getting rid of neck/shoulder tension.
When in doubt? Find someone on Instagram who is stronger than you. Watch and learn. 🙂
I love following TopShelfKittie because she is on a similar mission with cannabis and she is seriously dedicated to her strength training! I always learn something new from watching her routines on YouTube.
I now spend about 45 minutes of my workout just stretching and doing mobility stuff. This might seem like a waste of gym time at first, but I guarantee if you put a greater focus on this your strength will improve and you will have less pain from your more intense activities.