With the arrival of the new year, many of us are gearing up for new fitness plans that will get us the results we’ve been hoping or struggling for.
But, before you dive into any new fitness program, I’d like to encourage you to incorporate stretching and release work first, and here’s why…
People come into the studio for many reasons, but they all share a common trait: some form of tightness in their body from their daily physical demands.
So, before we can get the most out of a session, and make sure we don’t make things worse instead of better, we need to release the tightness. Then we can make the deep connections that feel so good and work so well to transform our bodies.
Why Release Work Matters
Some people dismiss release work as an unnecessary, time-consuming luxury. But, what if the tightness in your body was actually stopping you from making the progress you want?
And what if you didn’t even know you had this tightness because you had adapted to that feeling and just considered it normal?
Effective stretch and release work is one of the missing links to a toned and pain-free body.
In fact, tightness in one area of your body can actually stop another area from functioning!
How Tight Hip Flexors Can Lead to a Droopy Derriere
For example, tight hip flexors will stop your femur bone from moving through its full range of motion, behind your torso, when you walk. If your leg doesn’t move behind your body, your glutes never activate and can’t do their job of propelling you forward when you take a step.
Your body is resourceful and knows you’ve got to walk with or without the glutes, and so, a kind of a negative domino effect begins. Other muscles get involved to compensate for the missing glutes so you can still walk.
In this situation, your brain eventually gets the signal that your glutes aren’t needed and over time, the gluteal muscles become inactive. Now your hamstrings and low back activate to take over the job of walking. This is a perfect recipe for low back pain and a droopy derriere!
Now, imagine you have no idea that your glutes are inactive. Your back feels tight and your bottom has become flabby, so you decide to try Pilates, or another form of exercise to get some tone back into your bottom.
If you don’t release your tight hip flexors in an effective way first, no matter what form of exercise you take on, you’ll be spinning your wheels and leaving most of the benefits on the table. And you probably won’t be happy with your results.
Without Stretching, You Could Be Making Things Worse
Having tight chest and shoulders muscles is another example where release work must come first. If these areas are too tight, they’ll pull you forward into a rounded position.
If you add weight and resistive force to your body without first releasing your shoulders and chest, you will literally be strengthening your body into a rounded and stooped posture.
Building strength on top of existing tightness will limit your range of motion and even decrease it over time!
I’ve seen people who have lived in a constant state of discomfort for so long that the discomfort has actually become normal and something they assume is just part of getting older.
When I worked with Kit Laughlin, one of my favorite things he said was, “Normal is not always desirable.” Not to mention the fact that both discomfort and decreased range of motion are not necessary at all, and this isn’t a normal part of aging.
But the Upside is Even Better Than You Might Realize!
Many people at the studio have radically improved the quality of their lives by adding release work to their regimen.
Some of these folks had been resigned to planning hip replacement, or back surgery, but tried the special techniques we use at Pilates Tonic as a last resort instead and were thrilled to realize that the more extreme solutions were no longer necessary.
These folks are not only pain free now, but they’re able to manage the discomfort they once had with simple exercises they do in the studio and at home!
I hope you’ll give stretching and release work a try and experience the difference it can make in the way you feel as you move through your regular fitness routine. If you do it consistently, I think you’ll be very happy (and maybe even surprised!) with the results.
Let me know how it goes, and I’ll see you in the studio!
P.S. – Over the next two months I’ll be posting three videos demonstrating three commonly overlooked areas for release work that, when incorporated into your routine, will have a really positive impact. Check for the first one on January 21.