Many of us want to move better, and as a movement coach, I would certainly advacate that. What does “moving better” actually mean though?
To me, moving better means I can move with ease. To be able to carry on the activities that I did in my teens/20’s/30’s if I want to. Also, that I’m not avoiding physical exercises for fear that my knees or back(insert as appropriate) will go.
Whether you love exercise or not, I think it’s important that you can live your life to the full, and not feel limited by the capabilities of your body. Whether you are young with a niggle in your knee or back, or slightly older. Age is not a reason to put up with aches, pains and stiffness. One of my clients says
I move better now than I did 30 years ago”.
Here/s a link to part of Lyndas journey
It may surprise you to know that I’m not a huge fan of stretching. That’s not to say that I never stretch, but when you understand the bodies restrictions there are better/safer ways of improving movement in my opinion.
So what’s the problem with stretching?
My problem with stretching is when you don’t really know where you are starting from, in terms of your body set up. Just because something feels tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.
Our brains are excellent at telling us there’s a problem, but not always so good at telling us what or where the problem is. Therefore, it’s not unusual to have a scenario where something feels tight, but actually isn’t, and the problem is elsewhere.
For example. Do you know of someone who no matter how much they stretch their hamstrings, they always have tight hamstrings… It just makes no difference to them at all?
Maybe there never was a problem at the hamstrings in the first place.
Stop doing the same thing over, and expecting a different result
or as Albert Einstein said
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result
The hamstrings could feel tight for a number of reasons. If there is tension in the nerve, the hamstring may be shorter to protect the nerve, and no amount of stretching will release that hamstring, until that nerve is happy.
Or the hamstring could be at full stretch because of the position of the pelvis. ie. it’s actually as long as it can be, further stretching will likely aggrevate tendons, and cause a different problem.
Or the hamstrings could actually be overloaded, For example if you’re not able to activate your glutes(bottom muscles) properly, your hamstring might have to work harder. In this scenario the solution is to activate the glute not to stretch the hamstring. Read more about glutes and why they might not be as working as efficiently as they could be here
It may supprise you to know that even a problem up at the shoulder can affect how that hamstring feels.
So what can you do instead?
There are a number of things that you can do, that in my opinion are safer than stretching.
Number 1 – work the opposite muscle, so for example if your hamstrings are tight, work your quads(the top fronts of your legs). If the quads are working, then the hamstrings won’t be able to, and if they are truely tight, this should loosen them off.
Number 2 – go for a massage, or use a foam roller
Number 3 – get a movement assessment done.
A movement assessment with a Biomechanics Coach will highlight any joint or nerve restriction.
It will give you a clear idea of where the restrictions are in your body, and you will be given the best/safest exercises as to how to improve your movement.
Tracy Swindell is a former GB international marathon runner who has trained and competed in a number of sports from a young age. She is passionate about helping people reach their potential and is a strong believer in empowering her clients to understand and care for their own bodies.
Always updating her skills to get the best possible results for her clients, Tracy’s extensive studying covers coaching and movement-based qualifications including intrinsic biomechanics, anatomy in motion, pilates and yoga.