I do not know about you, but I personally feel like a victim when I sit on the ground and want to reach for my toes. I can run for miles and easily crush intense HIIT classes, but when it comes to flexibility, I feel totally defeated. So I decided to find out exactly what makes someone flexible, why it's even important and how I can find out something of that elastic goodness.
There are two things to think about when it comes to flexibility:
The first is the range of motion in the joints. "Your body has joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments," says Ron Noy, MD of Prestige Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. "The joint will have a static amount of movement that it can do . The reason shoulders have more movement than hips is because the socket is flatter in the shoulder than in the hip." In other words, there are areas of your body that naturally move more than others, called a range of motion. Anatomy ̵
The second aspect that defines flexibility is tightness – and the tightness around the joints is determined by the muscle, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. "These are the things that can actually be changed in adulthood," says Noy.
Although the range motion in your body may vary from joint to joint, this is the bottleneck in the fascia and ligaments that affects the flexibility of certain joints and muscle groups in the body. If you're wondering how flexible you are (or are not in my case), ask yourself if the muscle you're moving can do its job.
What else influences flexibility?
Gender, age, genetics and daily activities are all factors that contribute to your flexibility. Noy says that women are usually more flexible than men simply because the joints and muscles of the female body are formed compared to men. "The activities we participate in as children will also affect the development of our joints," says Noy. "The ballet will stretch the joints further than football."
In addition, we are not so active as we get older – the majority of us sit for hours sitting. "When you think about how many people bend over your computer, it causes a sharp contraction of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments," says Noy. "If you do not constantly expand these things, they will become closer."
But no matter how much someone stretches or moves on a daily basis, genetics also plays a role. "I'm not very flexible for a dancer," says Maria Ambrose, a professional dancer and instructor at Shadowbox in New York City. "I can move very fast, which is great, but I can not lift my leg to my ear."
A study by the Journal of Applied Physiology investigated the flexibility of the human back. After investigating the lumbar spine range of 300 pairs of fraternal and identical twins, the study found that 47 percent of the range of motion in the lumbar spine of subjects was due to genetics. For professionals like Ambrose, maybe it's the way the cookie crumbles.
Christina Jensen, former Radio City Rockette and Rumble trainers in New York City, says she's too flexible because she's too flexible. "I went too far and did too much, and then I broke my L5, what do you do, you have to retire," she says. Both women come from athletic backgrounds and practice stretching every day, but have two completely different experiences with flexibility.
Regardless of how much you want to break your body, flexibility is important.
They inevitably prevent you from getting hurt, but it can help prevent it.
"When you stretch properly, you change the fascia," says Sita Hagenberg, co-founder of Bendable Body. "The ability of our muscles to move and strengthen to do anything is determined by the fascia, so if it is tight and stiff, the muscle is strangulated – it's like wearing a straitjacket . " Working with tension in your fascia through stretching or foam rollers can help improve joint pain, stiffness, and the alignment of your body.
So what? it takes a little more pretzel?
If you want to improve flexibility, think about your ultimate goal. "Do you want to do a split or do you want to recover your muscles faster?" Ambrose says. You may feel discouraged if you can not touch or split your toes, but your body does not need to to do these things.
It is also important to know that improving your flexibility does not apply overnight. Similar to brushing or showering, stretching is something you need to do to be part of your daily routine if you want to increase your flexibility.
If you touch your toes then is your goal?  Ben Lauder-Dykes, an instructor at the Fhitting Room in New York City, says that with every static stretch you do, you should hold it for two to three minutes once a day for 60 days. For example, if you want to force your nose to your knees, you must spend some time with a forward crease over this thigh muscle.
Sure, it does not sound like the most exciting effort, but Lauder-Dykes says that's part of the problem. "People think that if something is simple and easy, it is not effective," he says. "It's unfortunate, but sometimes people do not realize how important stretching is until they get hurt."
"My best advice for people is to take their time and practice a good shape with everything," says Jensen. "If you do not yet have the flexibility in your thigh muscles to touch your toes, it will not be good to get your body moving."
Take a few tips and tricks from a pro:
As Lauder-Dykes says, if you want to work on a certain area, or if you touch your toes, then you have to stretch consistently for several days.
One thing he stresses All his customers are always monitoring the results. "You need to determine a starting point that may turn out to be a sensation in your exercises," he says. But if you think how you feel, this is a good way to start your treatment should you find a more objective way to measure your progress. In the same way that someone photographs before and after with weight loss, try your flexibility. Depending on how you feel, it can change from day to day. However, if you take a photo, you can objectively see your results (no matter how you feel). "You may not feel like you've improved," but if you take a photo, you might say, "Wow, I actually went deeper."
Alexa Pipia is a social media editor in New York City, who received her master's degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. If she does not write, she can improve her boxing technique or run a race. Follow her on Twitter or on Instagram.