Gaining flexibility and reaching your fullest potential of flexibility is a gradual process and takes time and patience. Speeding up the process is not necessarily a goal, as it might be unsafe, but there are ways that will make stretching reach its maximum effect. Today we discuss how to reach your flexibility potential and adjust your stretching techniques to get there.
The bottom line is: the “when” matters. My biggest tip to you is to adjust your schedule so that stretching takes place after class or after a workout, when your heart beat is up, you have increased oxygen flow and your temperature is higher. Research has shown that the effects of stretching last longer if you do this activity when your muscles are warm. Thus, after-class stretching is more effective in the long-term than before-class stretching.
I’m not saying to completely botch pre-class stretching, because that’s important too in order to dance well during class, but stretching after class is even more important. If you are focused on preserving your before-class stretching routine, but you don’t want to have to do it after class too, I have some solutions for you as well.
The solution is called a passive warm up. It’s a type of warm up that instead of strengthening and stretching or doing any other physical activity to warm you, you use a variety of techniques that warm you up without having to do the work. The biggest example of this would be layering on the clothing before class: the layers will increase body heat and help to loosen your muscles before class.
There are a few more examples of a passive warm up, though. Here are some ideas if you are interested in pursuing this technique:
- Take a warm epsom salt bath before class or a performance
- Take a hot shower
- Use a heating pad on tight muscles or places you really want warmed up
- Eating muscle release foods or cramping reducers like potassium (bananas are an easy and practical source of this nutrient)
One other example would be rolling out. I like to call it semi-passive warm up because it does involve some movement and physical activity, but it’s really the roller doing the work, not you. Just simply rolling back and forth on the tight spots or areas you want warmer for class will really help you out.
Rolling works because it stimulates miofascial release – the connective tissues in and around your muscles is released and restriction is relieved. The massaging also improves blood flow and dispersion of muscle toxins. This warms up the muscle, makes it more flexible and helps improve its range of motion.
All of these techniques are designed to help replace stretching before class so you can make room for stretching afterwards. Also, by using a passive warm up rather than an active warm up before you work out, is a big measure to reduce the risk of injuries while you are dancing (or even stretching), and can help preserve your energy throughout the day.
I hope this bigger tip is helpful to you, and thanks to the newsletter subscriber that asked me this question and sparked the idea for this blog post! If you want to learn more about passive warm up ideas, make sure to like this post or leave a comment down below. Also be sure that you are following my blog’s Instagram, @gouletballet, for more frequent helpful tips. I’ll see you on Wednesday!