For our exercise routines, we often think of cardiovascular training and strength training, but there is one aspect of training that is commonly overlooked: flexibility training. Flexibility training is a combination of stretches that increase blood flow to the muscles, enhancing physical performance and most importantly decreasing the risk of injury.
There are different types of stretches. Static stretching is the process of moving slowly into a stretch and holding the position for a short period of time. Ballistic stretching is used to push a limb beyond the normal range of motion, using the momentum of movement. Dynamic stretching is the process of utilizing swinging motions to bring the limbs to full range of motion.
Some of us would rather run, jump or kick our way to better fitness, but there are challenging ways to become more flexible and increase fitness in a new area. Two popular methods of flexibility training are Yoga and Pilates.
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India and is a series of asanas, or postures. The poses can be done quickly in succession or more slowly to increase stamina and improve alignment. Many people think that yoga is just stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility.
The first yoga class that I participated in resulted in a pool of sweat on my mat. I was shocked to see how my body responded to holding a stretch or position for a set period of time. Not only was it challenging but most yoga classes are also in a group environment and the social aspect was invigorating. Yoga requires that wonderful mind and body connection allowing us to release our everyday stresses as well. There are many types of yoga classes, including vinyasa and bikram, and I’d recommend that those new to yoga should try different types to see what may be the best fit.
Pilates is another method of incorporating flexibility training into your workout regimen. Pilates utilizes a series of controlled movements which concentrate on a strong core. It uses a range of apparatuses and props to guide and train the body and strengthen the spine. It was created in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate and cross train ballet dancers. It also focuses on the mind/body connection and is based on principles of precision and controlled breathing. Pilates is known for lengthening and stretching, and creating long, lean muscles on both women and men.
There are both yoga and Pilates classes at studios and gyms around the country. Look into a yoga or Pilates class and challenge you body to new level. The body loves new things!
Crystal Asbury is a Certified Personal Trainer and & Corrective Exercise Specialist