I know that one of my HUGE issues is flexibility, I don’t think I’ve ever really been “flexible”, and until I got educated about physical fitness, didn’t really put much thought into it.
Until I started hurting…
I’m sure that I’m like many of you, I would commonly hear “stretch before you ___” or “make sure you stretch after you ___”, but for the most part, I would pass because I’m trying to get on with my day.
I WAS SO WRONG!
First: Stiff & Short Muscles and Joints with Restricted Movement DON’T WORK WELL
Tight muscles can cause pain and imbalances in the body. When a muscle isn’t working properly, another muscle make take over it’s function. Chicken or Egg: the muscle in pain may not be the origin of the problem.
Tight muscles can restrict movement, which increase your risk of injury or impact your ability to do daily activities. Problems with shoulder flexibility? How does it feel to reach for items on a high shelf? I can tell that my left ankle issues impacted my ability to step certain ways when I was on my South Dakota hike, stressing my left knee and hip more because they needed to pick up the slack.
Tight muscles can restrict blood flow. Proper blood flow is important for recovery after activity. Or maybe a hint to the answer of: It’s Thursday, why am I still so sore from Mondays workout?
Second: Flexibility Naturally Decreases with Age
Certain parts of my body feel 20 years older than others…I guess it’s celebrating birthdays without me and this is the hangover? Not Fair!
Third: Flexibility does not always equal Stretching
I will do more detailed posts on specific Stretching, Flexibility and Mobility activities, but here are a couple of Flexibility Assessments that I did recently:
Sit & Reach
Assesses: Flexibility of the Lower Body – especially the Hamstrings
Program: This Sit & Reach is a common flexibility test, the Senior Fitness Test version of this is a Chair Sit & Reach, modified so that the participant doesn’t need to sit on the floor to be assessed. There are also modifications to this assessment for those who may have low back problems.
Purpose: I know that tight hamstrings and under-active glutes are one of my ongoing problems, I’m hoping that repeating this assessment will give me feedback on whether my flexibility program is working.
Score: Mine rates as “Poor”. Not surprising, I’ve always been pretty inflexible in my hamstrings.
Assesses: Flexibility of the Upper Body – especially the Shoulder
Program: This is used in the Senior Fitness Test system. Now I can’t use the comparison chart for a few more years (the assessed age range starts at 60), I’m adding this as an easy-to-demonstrate assessment. There are other assessments for shoulder flexibility that need to be given by a professional.
Purpose: Shoulder flexibility in general impacts your ability to do daily activities such as getting dressed, putting on a seat-belt, and reaching items on high shelves. My reason for doing this is that much of my Nordic Walking needs full shoulder mobility. I’ve also noticed (on the very rare occasion I wear a dress) that I can’t reach a back zipper easily any longer.
Score: This is done as a demonstration only. This assessment is part of a Senior Fitness Test so the rating is for participants who are older than I currently am. This should also be measured by an assessor for greater reliability.
Assesses: Flexibility in the Ankle Joint – especially Flexion differences between ankles
Program: The official ankle flexibility test is something that should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist with more accurate measurement methods that can be done with a hand-held ruler, but this is a quick example of the difference between Left & Right.
Purpose: This is one of my easier imbalances that I can show, and definitely something that I need to work on improving. Ankle mobility is very important for my hiking program in specific, but is also vital to keeping me free of injury as I go about many of my other activities such as dog walking, running, and simple things like walking across heaved sidewalks and potholes.
Score: This one really isn’t “scored” like the others, but a comparison between Left & Right. A Physical Therapist can take more accurate measurements and categorize you in comparison to others your age and gender.
Cautions / Contraindications
Certain movements are not safe for individuals with specific conditions. Please do not do these assessments at home without the guidance of a medical professional or personal trainer who is trained in administering these tests.
Sit & Reach