/ Success stories of the super inflexible??

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Elsier on 05 Feb 2019

I've got very inflexible hamstrings and forearms. (Have had the inflexible hamstrings since I was a child), I've tried a few times (half-heartedly) to improve my flexibility but usually given up after a few weeks.

This time I really want to make the effort and see if I can actually make some progress. 

I've got a plan in place in terms of what I'm going to do to increase my flexibility (with the help of a coach) and I think it's going to a bit better because the stretches I've been given are a bit less painful and easy to do.

So now I just need to work out a plan to increase my motivation! Since I've never had any success with my very limited attempts at improving my extreme inflexibility previously, I've never seen that sustained effort brings results.

So please share if you've gone from barely being able to touch your shins to being able to touch your toes or similar feats of improvement (even if that's taken years of effort) as I think that will really help me to keep up my motivation.

And and other tips to keep up motivation? I thought about photographing my flexibility each month to document progress and wondered if that might help?

I don't have a problem with stretching my more flexible muscles, I've just always avoided the ones that actually need stretching, partly because it hurts and partly because it remind me how inflexible I am

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Fiona Reid - on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Motivation tips... photos would be good or even just some way to measure how far you can reach whether it's using a table leg/chair and marking where you can get to each month (chalk would be an option or those wee sticky dividers (post-it index flags or something) you get for marking pages on paper etc)

I'm also very curious as to what stretches you're doing for the hamstrings? will ask you next time I see you as I have hopelessly tight hamstrings and sciatica in one leg doesn't the situation as I tend to back off as soon as I feel the sciatic nerve. 

 

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DenzelLN - on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

What do you need flexible forearms for?

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heleno - on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Yoga worked for me. It took several years but I've gone from being about as flexible as you are now to putting my palms flat on the floor in a forward fold. 

Reclining leg raises are good to start with as you don't compensate by bending (and straining) your back. Try lying on the floor with your legs up straight against a wall. It's an easily sustainable and relaxing pose and you can gradually move closer to the wall until your legs are at right angles.

If you climb a lot you may also have tight calves which will make your hamstrings feel tighter. Try standing with your heels on the ground and your toes on a block (or eg a book) to gently stretch them.

Good luck - I hope you soon see some improvement! 

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Andrew Lodge - on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Start slowly and build up, otherwise you''ll get injured.

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alx on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to DenzelLN:

Handstand, full planche, not breaking a hand when you are older and fall over

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Elsier on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to Fiona Reid:

Cool yes happy to share, I have the same problem with certain hamstring stretches, I feel the stretch in the back of my knee, but this one seems to be OK. Also been suggested I try massaging and strengthening them too. 

Good ideas for measuring progress too, thanks! 

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Elsier on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to alx:

Yes exactly ( not that doing a handstand is on my list at the moment, but it would be extremely difficult with my current restrictions in forearm mobility). At the moment I can't even get my fingers flat on the floor for things like down ward facing dog and cat pose in yoga because my forearms are so tight.

Plus I have some permanently bent and fingers that won't straighten so I think getting more flexible should help with injury prevention. 

Post edited at 22:03
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Elsier on 05 Feb 2019
In reply to heleno:

That's great progress, well done on such a big improvement.  Thanks for sharing its really motivating to hear from someone who has done it! 

I can't do that exact stretch because straight leg stretches tend to pull on my nerves in the back of my knee, but I am planning to use something quite similar.

Luckily my calves are actually very flexible so its only hamstrings that I need to work on. ( I think the cause was too much fell running as a child!)

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ClimberEd - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Are you sure it's your hamstrings - because it may be (either or as well as) your glutes.

Essentially your whole posterior chain is tight.

If so, make sure you work on each bit (simplistically glutes, hamstrings, calf) as you can try and stretch your hamstrings until the cows come home but if you have tight glutes then your legs will never feel 'loose'

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slab_happy on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

> I don't have a problem with stretching my more flexible muscles, I've just always avoided the ones that actually need stretching, partly because it hurts

So, first key thing to bear in mind: don't stretch to the point where it hurts. Go to the point where you're feeling a definite stretch, some "sensation" as yoga teachers like to say, then hang out there for a while, relax and breathe.  The "hurts so good" feeling is fine, but never "bad pain".

You're trying to teach your nervous system that it's fine to allow the muscles to stretch to that point. If you push into actual pain, everything will tighten up reflexively to try to stop you from damaging yourself.

Second useful bit of info I know: hamstrings (and hips) seem to respond well to holding stretching for a long time. Think 3-5 minutes or more (on each side). If you can relax into the stretch, you might find that after the first minute or two, something shifts and you can comfortably go a bit deeper.

However, it's much more effective if you can stretch on all (or at least most) days rather than trying to do a mega-session once a week.

Third bit of info that was key for me: a lot of good hamstring stretches can be done while in a position to watch a screen. So try watching TV or listening to a podcast or whatever while you stretch. For me, it helped with motivating me to stretch, giving me something to do with my brain other than watching the clock grimly, and the partial distraction helped prevent me from getting competitive with myself and pushing too far in stretches.

I got my front splits courtesy of a box set of "The Wire"!

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jkarran - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

A few weeks of determined daily stretching took 30 something me from struggling to cut my toe nails back to reasonably supple, it alone was good for at least a couple of grades as I was able to place my feet and smoothly climb past moves I'd previously had to lank or slap at.

My motivation was climbing harder, the stretching wasn't much fun but it delivered climbing results fast. I never kept track of my actual flexibility, that wasn't the motivator.

jk

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the sheep - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

I go to a stretch class once a week and slowly over the last 10 months or so I have become more flexible. Its great as after the initial trepidation of going to a group class (knowing you will be crap so very self conscious) it has become a routine to the point where the instructor asks if im ok if I miss a week  That in itself is good motivation.

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fromsinkingships on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

I have always thought of my hips and hamstrings as being very inflexible, I can't sit cross legged, get cramp when using aggressive heel hooks, can't open my legs wide a part etc.

For a little while I have been following the hip flexibility work out on the Crimpd app, as well as following a routine entitled "15 minute beginner flexibility routine" or something a long those lines, from a guy called Body Weight Warrior on Youtube.

Since starting a few weeks ago I've been stretching most days of the week and I am already seeing the improvement within my climbing.

I can almost do a pike with near enough straight legs with both palms on the floor now, an improvement which I'm pretty surprised by in such a short period of time. Prior I think I struggled to touch my toes.

Even if you complete both routines back to back (which I generally don't) it wouldn't take you any longer than 30 minutes. Either routine is about 15 minutes in length.

In terms of motivation; in just a few weeks I have made great gains in my flexibility and it is already paying dividends in my climbing. Completing the routines makes me feel pleased that I am actively working towards a goal I have set.

Post edited at 12:22
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kathrync - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Videoing or photoing yourself or otherwise marking your progress somehow can be very motivational as you will see gains that you are unlikely to notice otherwise.

I find it easier to pick one specific area of weakness, pick 2-3 stretches that target that area and work on only those intensively for a week or two, then maybe switch to something else. YMMV of course.  I do the majority of my stretching in front of the tv.  Always stretch warm, go for a jog first or have a bath or something - and a warm room helps too.

As well as stretching, also look at incorporating mobility into any other workouts you do.  By this I mean moving around dynamically in such as way as to use your full range of motion without trying to push beyond that range.  An example might be doing drills that focus on high stepping moves on a bouldering wall.  This increases the proportion of your range of motion in which you are actually functional.

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BrendanO - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Thread title = great name for a route!

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Ciro - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

After three major episodes of disc trouble over 15 years, and countless muscular episodes in between, I'd "protected" my back to the point where I was about 6 inches from being able to touch my toes.

After finding the right physio to give me a holistic view of my issues, two years of self-myofacial release, stretching, strengthening and astanga yoga got me pain free and touching my toes.

My flexibility plateaud the for quite a while, with no amount of astanga making much difference, but last winter I started using the Down Dog app, and doing flow yoga with emphasis on the lower back... After a few weeks things began to progress again.

Recently, I've moved to doing longer stretches, mostly in the sauna after work three or four days a week. I'll hold the stretches for 40 to 60 breaths. This has helped me open my hips and hamstrings further, as well as the lower back.

A few days ago, I touched my nose on my knee during a single leg seated hamstring stretch. It's been a long journey - about six years since I found that physio - but so worth it

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Will_he_fall - on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

Hi Elsie

Check out the book 'how to become a supple leopard' and the mobility WOD stuff- I've found it really useful in trying to sort out my various inflexibilities (still a work in progress...)

Cheers

Will

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dh73 - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Elsier:

I used to have very tight hamstrings which (I think) lead to horrendous sciatica. I concluded that the cause was excessive running and had to stop for a while and now limit what I do. not ideal but the sciatica made me want to put a bullet in my head, so it is better than that!

anyway, seeings as you mention fell running, it may be worthwhile considering if that is causing the inflexibility. not entirely sure what to do about it, but identifying the cause is a useful first step

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to slab_happy:

Thank you these are some really good tips, impressed that you can do the front splits!

I work from home so am going to try to work on my flexibility for 30 mins a day every day.

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to jkarran:

Yes part of my justification to myself for not bothering previously was that it didn't affect my climbing. I assumed because I had a flexible back, hips and ankles that I could compensate, but it was pointed out to me that whilst I can get my foot high, I can't do it at the same time as keeping my hips in close to the wall, so it's fine if I'm moving my foot up whilst holding a jug, but not if it's a sloper. 

Amazing that it made two grades difference, that's hugely motivating!!

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to the sheep:

Thanks I have attended yoga classes previously, but the problem is that because I have intermittent work commitments in my evenings it's hard to be consistent, so I prefer to do it in my own time, then I can just move the day to suit my other commitments.

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to fromsinkingships:

Thank you that's really great to hear it's made a difference!

It's brilliant to hear all these success stories!

I have the Crimpd app and do sometimes use the flexibility workouts (they are really good) but I think part of the reason I like them so much is that they are (mostly) not targeting my weakest areas. So am going to focus on those for a bit whilst also trying to maintain my flexibility in other areas!

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Ciro:

I've just measured how far I am off being able to touch my toes 7.5 inches, so worse than you were! 

I've had quite a bit of back trouble over the years too, although no physio has ever said that it was due to my tight hamstrings.

Great to hear that you got to the point of being able to touch your toes, that would be amazing! Even just to be able to raise my leg to right angles would be great.

Thank you for sharing your success story!

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Will_he_fall:

Hi Will, nice to hear from you.

Cool will check it out, good luck with the inflexibility work in progress, hopefully you found some good stretching psyche on there too!

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Elsier on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to dh73:

I think it's likely years of fell running from a very young age. Not a lot I can do about that now.

I don't tend to run very much anymore, I stopped enjoying competitive fell running, so I gave it up although I still do the occasional mountain marathon and I like a nice long jog out in the hills from time to time. I haven't actually run very much at all in the last six months, (too many commitments and also some sciatic nerve pain in my back which has flared up again) so I shouldn't be undoing any flexibility exercises in the short term by going running.

But maybe as a nice bonus, getting more flexible will help my back problems too, and mean that if I want to go back to doing more fell running again in future then I can!

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In reply to Elsier:

I'm the same as you having always had tight hamstrings. I've recently started to actually do something about this and remembered advice that my strength and conditioning coach gave me years ago, which was to focus on dynamic stretching of the hamstrings (since they're such a big muscle group). Lie on your back and bring one knee up near to your chest and just straighten and bend the leg up and down multiple times in quick succession (you don't need to completely bend the the knee, just relax the extended leg and straighten again as soon as you release for a more dynamic stretch). It seems to work much better and brings faster improvement than simply holding a painful static stretch for ages!. You can do it while sitting down too, watching TV, etc. I can see how time-consuming static stretching - which is both painful and boring - really puts people off doing flexibility work!

Post edited at 21:44
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Elsier on 23:13 Mon
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Thank you, sounds worth a try as yes static stretches are definitely hard work, but am determined to keep up the stretching to see if it makes a difference! 

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PaulW - on 08:54 Tue
In reply to Elsier:

At a very inflexible age of 65 I decided to try some YouTube yoga. All gentle stuff working on whole body flexibility and movement. About 30 minutes a day. Working well for me after a few months, more flexible and feel better.

i like these yoga with Adriene videos.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHkpIh7nj3M&t=3s

She does a 30 day programme which is good. Some videos target different things so you could choose those more suited to what you need.

Not sure I like the idea of photographing progress, some days you are just not as flexible so you may get fed up with the lack of progress or strain too much and hurt yourself. Just take what the day brings and if you work at it you will notice long term progress 

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Elsier on 21:39 Tue
In reply to PaulW:

Thank you, good to know that you can still get more flexible, even if you have been very inflexible for a long time like me!

I know what you mean about trying to measure progress and especially when you measure it too often. I've actually opted for a really simple way of motivating myself which is to give myself a gold star in my diary for each day that I remember to stretch, seems to be working pretty well so far, the stickers are good for jogging my memory and it's surprisingly satisfying to stick one in my diary after I've done my stretching for the day!

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Lawrence Dudley - on 08:39 Wed
In reply to Elsier:

Cycling to work, I just started doing a few stretches on days I was a bit early. I went from struggling to get past my knees to being able to touch my toes quite easily in a few months. I just did the basic stretches we were taught in PE lessons at school, I've no idea if they are the best or not.

My original motivation was to do kick-turns more easily, but actually the biggest benefit is that I am much less stiff and sore after a long active day.

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