By CFEO Director of Media
With former perennial door mat Kansas City Royals playing the New York Mets in the World Series, I went out of my way to tune in last night. I didn’t get to see the whole game, but I did catch the homerun that tied the game in the 9th inning and the subsequent five innings during which my dinner almost burned on the grill.
During the extra innings, the Mets brought out veteran Bartolo Colon to pitch. BARTOLO COLON! I remember him as a 24 year old on the 1997 Cleveland Indians team that went to the World Series. But with a strong veteran pitching rotation that year, the Indians left the rookie Colon off their World Series roster. So while his team played in the World Series, he did not.
Eighteen years later, Colon is 42 and playing in his first World Series. Despite his age and acquired girth, he isn’t playing like a roster filler running on fumes. He’s still throwing fast and hard and exhibiting the kind of athleticism you usually find in dancers or very good soccer players. I can’t help but be proud of the guy and, as a 40 year old rejuvenated athlete, feel a kinship. As you know, I attribute my revival to the people and programming at CFEO. According to the tv announcers for last night’s game, Colon attributes his continued employment to his flexibility (but I’m sure genes has something to do with it also).
That got me thinking about flexibility in general. Is it really the secret to longevity? Men’s Health seems to think it’s atleast a major component. According to Jeremey Duvall, M.S., CPT, flexibility is crucial for preventing injury, gaining strength and size, and proper posture. So how can we improve our flexibility and keep our vitality late in life? Here are 7 ways to improve flexibility, according to Men’s Health:
1. Dynamic warm-up** prior to working out. Before starting your lifting or cardio session, go through some bodyweight movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, side lunges, and jumping jacks. Perform three sets of each movement for 20-30 reps to warm up your entire body.
2. Follow a workout with light static stretching*. These longer duration stretches help to lengthen muscles that were tightened up during exercise. Spend extra time focusing on the chest, lats, and hip flexors, as they tend to be tight on most individuals due to daily posture.
3. Prioritize full range motion. Make an effort to perform each exercise movement through a full range of motion. Going full-depth on squats, for example, helps build hip flexibility. Work at full ranges of motion with lighter weights when learning new movements.
4. Incorporate massage. Massage breaks up knots in muscles and tissues that restrict movement. Foam rolling pre-workout can help to prepare the body for movement, post-workout roll out can flush away waste products from exercise and help you recover quicker. Focus on calves, quads, IT bands, upper back, and lats.
5. Take time to relax. Stress causes your body to tighten up. Find a few times a week to engage in a relaxing activity to help you unwind. Taking time to de-stress will help to relax your body and prevent muscles from tensing up and restricting movement.
6. Learn to breathe properly. Using your rib cage to breathe doesn’t engage the diaphragm optimally. Focus on belly breaths where the belly button moves in and out with each breath. Spend five minutes a day working on improving breathing for a more relaxed and stress-free posture.
7. Stay hydrated. Water forms a large part of our muscle. Focus on consuming more water, especially during and after hard exercise to keep your muscles working optimally.
*- Static stretching consists of holding a body joint in a stretched position for a designated length of time, allowing the muscle to slowly adapt to the new range of muscle. This is a passive stretch in that the muscle is relaxed throughout stretching.
**- Dynamic stretching consists of moving the body through an increased range of motion using bodyweight movements like squats and lunges. Dynamic stretching is considered an active stretch since the muscle is contracting and relaxing.