Living Better: Starting at the Core with Flexibility - ITS Tactical

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Living Better: Starting at the Core with Flexibility

By Bryan Black

2 of 6 in the series Living Better

Our bodies were designed to move, not sit in a chair or on a couch all day. I feel like American ailments are becoming worse these days and in my opinion, are directly related to atrophy.

I strongly believe in the use it or lose it philosophy and if you don’t take movement seriously, you’re going to lose it; plain and simple. Everyone, no matter what shape you’re in, has the ability to benefit from stretching.

Continuing our Living Better series today, I’ll be discussing flexibility through stretching, the use of foam rollers and even demonstrating my personal routines in a few videos. I’m a big advocate of stretching and even the days that I can’t get a workout in, I at least try to stretch.

Flexibility

I’ve had to work hard at being flexible for a good part of my life. I never took it very seriously until I started playing Ice Hockey when I was younger and wanted to be a great goalie like the pros I idolized.

In my mind, that included being able to do the splits in goalie pads and make those killer glove saves you only see in the highlight reels. Looking back, that was a bit ambitious, but it did get me to start taking stretching seriously. Eventually I was able to accomplish the splits, but was never able to pull off an amazing ESPN worthy save.

Staying flexible has always stayed with me though and I attribute that flexibility to staying injury free for the most part. I did have a hip flexor tear during my time in the Navy and also a hamstring injury due to my own negligence, but those aside, stretching is very important to me.

I sit in a desk quite a bit during the day writing and editing articles, like I am right now, but there’s not a day that goes by I don’t take breaks to stretch or move around.

Why Stretch?

My personal beliefs aside, stretching helps. It can increase athletic performance, improve circulation through increased blood flow, improve stress and most of all help you avoid injuries.

Here’s my stretching routine, just remember, this is what I do and it’s A way not THE way.

The books I recommended in the stretching video are Relax into Stretch by Pavel Tsatsouline and The 12 Weeks to BUD/s by Stew Smith.

Posture

I’d like to mention posture here for a bit. Something I’ve found that stretching has helped with, is my overall posture. That and being cognizant of what my posture looks like when I’m walking or sitting.

When I find myself slouching or rounding my back, I pull my shoulders back, stick my chest out and imagine a plumb line running from the top of my head down to my feet. This helps me to visualize the alignment of my spine. Taking these steps yourself will help you more than you realize!

Flexibility01

Foam Rollers

Since about 2004, I’ve been benefitting from the use of foam rollers. The premise behind these is self-myofascial release, akin to a deep tissue massage. It works by relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle to aid in recovery. Foam rollers can also be described as a way to work out knots in major muscle groups.

There’s a school of thought out there that because foam rollers work through SMR on muscle groups, they’re ineffective on the iliotibial band, which is not a muscle. I’m here to tell you that for me personally, they’re extremely effective on ITB issues.

The ITB, or iliotibial band is a thick band running from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee and terminating just below the knee. The continual rubbing of the band over the femur, due to the flexion and extension of the knee during running, can cause the ITB to become inflamed.

While I was at BUD/s, ITB injuries were rampant due to the amount of running we did every day. While we had a few people that wound up washing out due to running related injuries, ITB was commonly known as “I Tried BUD/s.”

Foam Rollers are very inexpensive and as noted in the video, I picked up the rollers I have at Amazon online for about $20 each. Here’s a link to the softer white foam roller and also the stiffer black foam roller.

Notes

To restate my goal with the Living Better series this year, I’m personally sharing what’s helped me over the years to stay healthy, happy and motivated.

If you’ve been looking for a way to start living a better and healthier life, give stretching a shot. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes each day. I guarantee you that you’ll notice an improvement to your life by adding stretching into your daily routine.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have too, so ask away in the comments below! Also, I’d love to hear what your stretching routine is.

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