First off, everybody has his or her own definition of “flexible,” so I’m basing this off my own definition. No, I’m not a gymnast, a ballerina, or made of play-doh. I’m a typical active adult in my 30’s who can touch his toes, squat below parallel, and reach my arms straight over my head…I know, none of these are jaw-dropping, but you’d be surprised at how many people my age and older can’t come close to any of these…or at least without pain.
Let’s get back to my definition of flexibility real quick. My definition of flexibility is simple, it’s “being able to move through regular planes of motion without pain or restriction.” So what are “regular” planes of motion? To me, it’s movements we do every day…we squat/sit down and we lift things up (sometimes over our head) as the two most common movements. So you could see how not being able do these well, or pain-free, might be an issue.
As we age, our body adapts to the movements we do most often. So for the Average Joe, that’s sitting (with bad posture) and bending (with our back and not our knees). These two poor movements contribute to the two most common issues adults face, tight hips/hamstrings, and tight shoulders/upper back. Those same people incorporate those bad habits into exercise, it then becomes ten-fold.
So what’s the correction…?
Your typical “static” stretch barely scratches the surface when it comes to correcting or preventing these issues. Static stretching is holding a stretch for an extended period of time (ex: 10-30 seconds), then releasing. Think of static stretching (aka your muscle) as a brand-new rubber band out of the package…if you hold that band stretched out for 30 seconds, then let it go, it goes right back to the same tight band you just took out of the package. Now if you do that one, two, or three times a week, you may make some progress over time, but not much. This is how most people stretch thinking they are helping their flexibility. Now take that same rubber band and continuously stretch and release it (close to it’s max stretch) 100 times every day (without holding)…I bet you see a different in the elasticity much quicker than holding it stretched for 30 seconds, 1-3 times week.
So what am I saying? I’m simply stating that range of motion (aka flexibility) comes from moving in full ranges of motion with proper mechanics over and over, as much as you can…. specifically when exercising (especially with resistance added).
Doing this is a simple nervous system response that tells the body “it’s okay” to allow (you) to do that movement without injury or restriction. When you restrict yourself (intentionally or unintentionally), that’s when the body deems it unsafe if you every try to work past that range of motion. This is exactly why it’s important to use proper mechanics and work a “full” range of motion with every exercise, every workout session. I’m talking about squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull ups, push ups, dips, overhead pressing, everything! When you incorporate bad mechanics with already restricted areas, that’s an instant recipe for injuries. Working full ranges with good mechanics is like continuously stretching the rubber band 100 of times a day (aka your workout). This is what truly allows the body to move freely and without pain. It will take time and patience (and probably a lot less weight/resistance in the gym than your ego can handle) but eventually you will start to move better, feel better, and maybe even touch your toes or squat without feeling like your going to detach a muscle.
Moral of the Story: STOP static stretching and start focusing on form and improved range of motion with your exercises.
Diets can be confusing, there’s no doubt that you could search the Internet for 10 minutes and find several articles that contradict one another. One talks about high fat, another talks about low carb, another claims an “all liquid” diet, Paleo is king, vegan is the new athlete diet, intermittent fasting, don’t fast at all…While some of this can be true, you don’t have to completely take a side, because there are a few things that will work without fully committing to anything listed above.
So I’m here to tell you about things that hold true (at least in my experience) no matter what type of dieting you’re doing…
A Semi-Fast is necessary.
What do I mean by semi-fast? The body requires recovery in order to repair itself. This repair process is how you “build” muscle and “burn” fat. Believe it or not, you aren’t actually doing as much in the gym as you think you are when it comes to building muscle and burning fat., this is where you break the body down so that it MUST repair itself. The repair process takes place during the time when your body isn’t doing work…or eating food. The body needs to be in a rested and fasted state in order to do it’s best work when it comes to recovery. This is why you should get at least 7-8+ hours of sleep and NOT eat food/drink liquids about 2-3 before bed. When you add the “fasted” time before bed mixed with the time you’re asleep, the body has now had ample time to repair and rebuild itself (10-12 hours). If you eat close to bedtime and/or only sleep 5-6 hours, you didn’t get the full benefits of recovery, therefore your results will always seem mediocre. This Semi-fast (10-12 hours) is the easiest method to lose body fat and maintain/build muscle without doing much but watching the clock and being consistent.
Nutrient Timing IS important.
What is nutrient timing? This refers to the time of day you should eat certain macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats). Since Carbs are our main source of fuel for activity, it’s in your best interest to place them either in the morning and or pre/post workout. This helps your body utilize them more efficiently (when most active) instead of storing them when the body is less active (and they aren’t being used). Since fats are mainly used for hormone production first and fuel second, it’s in your best interest to use them in the evening or when your body is less active. When we rest and sleep, there are several hormone processes that occur. Having fats in the last meal of the day can help boost your hormone production for an even better response to your body composition. Lastly, Protein should be used equally throughout the day. There is no good or bad time for protein. You should aim to build eat meal around a protein source…the timing of the day will determine what predominately goes with that protein, carbs or fats.
Protein is the X-Factor.
Over 75% of my clients aren’t meeting basic protein needs, despite the fact that they thought they were. What are basic protein needs? .7 x your current body weight is the minimum, and up to 1.2 x your current body weight is acceptable. Most people should aim to get .8-.9 x BW to meet their needs. Protein is essential for anyone looking to change his or her body composition. It’s also essential for anyone looking to feel satiated (full) throughout the day, which in return can help with snacking and cravings. If there is one thing to track in your diet, start with making sure you’re getting the right amount of protein.
Certain Supplements are beneficial while others are a waste of time.
Supplements are tricky. Marketing is really good these days so it’s hard to tell what to look for and use and what is just a waste of time and money. I’ll keep this brief for the sake of making this section too lengthy. Here what I suggest you keep in your pantry…A Protein Powder is a MUST. It’s a quick and easy way to meet your protein needs without powering down a ton of animal meat all day. Look for a “Whey Isolate” powder and test a few flavors until you find one you like. Don’t get caught up in anything else for now. Omega-3 (Krill Oil) is necessary to balance your body’s Omegas and help reduce inflammation (gut, joint, and muscles). The American food industry is dominated by Omega-6s and 80% of Americans are deficient in Omega 3s. A normal ratio for the body is 2:1 or 3:1 for Omega 6 to 3s…Most of us are sitting at 18-20:1 Omega 6s to 3s. Do you see why most of us have severe inflammation and gut problems? Vitamin D3 is one of the most highly deficient vitamins in people today. It can boost hormones and help with recovery (bone and muscle strength), definitely something you don’t want to be deficient in if you are an active person. B12 is another mineral that helps you absorb all of the food you consume and covert it to usable energy. Why waste money on a pre-workout when you can just use the foods you eat every day as your energy boost? Lastly, Magnesium is a crucial for a lot of processes in the body, but mainly hormone production. Hormones determine EVERYTHING when it comes to fat-loss and muscle gain, so you need to keep them productive as long as you can! Plus, Mag will help you sleep like a baby for added recovery benefits. Anything I didn’t mention here isn’t really “needed.” If you have a balanced diet and take the supplements listed above, you are sure to see some substantial changes in your body in only a few weeks.