In another lifetime, I was a dancer. And I had all the physical attributes dancers had: great posture, a constant (and perhaps at times, a bit affected) turn-out of the feet as though I was about to perform a grand jete at any moment, and, of course, a disgusting degree of flexibility. Even several years after quitting the dance world, I could perform a jump split on command (without warming up beforehand) party-trick-style. But somewhere along the line, between marathon-trainings, boxing, and strength-training, I lost that easy flexibility. I'll admit it: I stopped stretching, assuming that my body would just contort itself into strange positions, whenever I commanded it to, without any work on my part.
Oh, how very naive I was. Guess what? Anytime you don't exercise a muscle (be it a literal one, or a figurative one- like, say, writing or playing the trombone), you will eventually lose that ability. Duh. And, as a result of not stretching, my hip flexors and hamstrings turned into tight wads of muscles that sometimes cause me lower back and hip pain. I don't like this loss of flexibility one bit. It makes me feel sad, nostalgic, and a little bit old.
SO, I am taking action.
A little over a week ago, I decided I was going to get my splits back. Stella got her groove back, and I'm going to tell you how Jesse's getting her flexibility back.
Are you ready for this?
I'm stretching again, every single night, just like I did from the age of 9 to the age I was, ummm, about 6 years ago (you do the math).
I did a whole lot of research when I decided I was going to get my flexibility back, and guess what I discovered? Everything I already knew. It's not rocket science. It's just stretching. And more so than that, it's disciplined and mindful stretching- a few quad stretches and down dogs after a run just don't do the trick. No, to get back to where I once was, I have to devote time and energy to the cause. I have to actually pull out my yoga mat, get down on the floor, and really face the tightness that I've allowed to build up over the years. And, I'm not going to lie: it's uncomfortable. Stretching one's muscles deeply can, if one is not used to it, hurt like a son-of-a-gun. However, there are tremendous benefits to this challenge I've undertaken.
For one, my lower back and hip flexors already feel SO much better. I've had very little lower back pain in the week I've committed to this challenge, and that for me is reason enough to continue down this path.
Secondly, it's always exciting to see just how malleable (pun intended) the body can be. Even though I've experienced and witnessed tremendous change both in my own life and in those of others, I still forget sometimes just how capable we all are.
And lastly, doing any sort of challenge builds self-confidence. So while it's humbling to admit I've lost some flexibility, it's extremely empowering to own up to this fact and to find the courage to take action.
So often, clients and friends will ask me "what they should do" or "how they should start" a new workout routine, and my answer is always the same: just start. Just do it (Thanks, Nike). And that's really all it is. Too often, we get caught up thinking about the future and the "what ifs," but really what we are doing is procrastinating and living in fear. Just start doing that thing you've wanted to try. Worst case scenario: you don't achieve the exact results you were hoping for, but guess what? You still tried it. You took a journey, and you undoubtedly will have learned valuable things about whatever skill it is you've undertaken, as well as a great deal about yourself, and you've gained self-confidence and self-efficacy. Best case scenario: you've learned something new, took a journey, and you learned a great deal about yourself, and you've gained self-confidence and self-efficacy. The outcomes really are not that different, and you truly have nothing to lose.
Even if, at the end of this #splitchallenge, I haven't eeked a centimeter closer to the ground whilst in split position, I've still gained so much: a reclaimed sense of discipline in a particular area, less pain in my back, and a nostalgic visit to my past. And those alone will be worth it.
So, ask yourself: What do YOU want to try? And then ignore all the "fear noise" in your head, and just start. It's worth your effort.