Stiff joints and muscles limit your range of motion and ease of movement. If your muscles are constantly shortened, they are constantly activated and don’t relax when you are working the opposing muscle. Basically, it’s really inefficient. It’s like clenching your jaw–it accomplishes nothing, wastes energy, creates tension, and results in pain. You might say now, “but if it uses up more energy, isn’t that good to be burning more calories?” Yes, inefficient movement does burn more calories, but it comes with a big price tag on your physical health, ultimately leading to overall fatigue/burnout and nagging overuse injuries.
So what can you do to train your flexibility? Stretch! Regular yoga practice will lengthen your muscles and open up your joints. Doing a few stretches every morning can do the trick. Feel which areas of your body need extra attention each day. However, stretching with the intention of stretching is not the only way to improve flexibility. Dancing, zumba, or cardio movements that have a wide sweeping motions will improve mobility, as well. Being mindful of how you move, no matter what activity you are doing, will make a difference. Just think of gently melting and bringing softness into tight muscles. Don’t grip or clench; try not to stay still or sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time–move around. Breathe deeply: when you breathe think of passively expanding your lungs and rib cage in every direction, like a balloon being filled with air, so it’s not only the upper chest that expands. When you are working out, you should not have that tension like you are taking a stressful exam; exercise is supposed to feel good for your body, a positive and moderated stressor. Feel fluidity in every movement. Take the time to relax and find calmness during your workout and throughout your day. This week may be shorter (yay!), but your muscles don’t have to be!