This week I finished my degree, that has taken 4 years of study, and while it is fantastic to have completed it, I have observed just how much my fitness has taken a dive! As 4 years has left virtually no time for exercise. So in my true style, I thought right I will throw myself into running and get my fitness back.. Well, I think my body went into shock! And then protest mode, as the first couple of days I have been making myself just get up and run… No pre-stretching just straight into it. So I have found my calves to be extremely tight, apart from every other pretend muscle in my body! And on day three you can guess what happened, yes my good old calves decided enough was enough and have decided to tear… not a big tear just enough to stop you in your tracks, and as you try to run again they scream in pain…And as I am cursing myself and saying come on just push through it, the body is saying no! And I have thought ok I need to seriously listen.
So where did I go wrong? Well, to begin with, non-supportive running shoes, that I think I purchased 6 years ago, so you can imagine there is no support for ankles or stability… Secondly I am trying to do everything too soon. If you haven’t run in over 4 years your body is not going to be able to just skip back into running and think nothing of it. You need to prepare and build core strength. So I have decided that this fitness journey needs to be more accommodating for where my body is at.. So instead of trying to run the pavements with a torn calve muscle, I have turned to stretching. With those that know me, you would think stretching would be second nature to me, given my history of yoga practice. But no! I ignore the key things I should be doing! So today I went along to my first pilate’s class and was shocked with just how much of my core strength I have lost and need to put work into building it back up. So as I have a reality check with myself – and make myself tone it down a notch, and focus on building the core strength and gently easing back into the running I thought I would remind myself and hopefully you on the importance of flexibility.
We all know that if you don’t warm up and stretch you a more prone to injury (as discussed above), but did you know through becoming more flexible you are increasing your body’s ability to perform. Through flexibility you can increase your endurance, strength, and range of motion; some professionals say your overall performance increases by as much as 30% which is massive! Our body’s ability to be as flexible as we were when we were children is pretty much lost as we enter adulthood, which is often put down to good ol stress. Stress causes your body to tighten up into one huge ball of knots. Combine the normal stress from work and family with a few hard gym workouts a week and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. Taking time to de-stress will help to relax your body and prevent muscles from tensing up and restricting movement. By being gentle with ourselves and taking the time to do some gentle stretching will enhance your immune system, increase your flexibility and strength, as well as lift your mood.
So to accommodate this I have started following a program on Youtube aimed at building core strength
Another way to ensure we a stretching and building on our flexibility is through the practice of yoga, which personally I love but must admit have become quite estranged from. There are so many awesome clips on yoga out there. My personal favorite to follow on youtube is Yoga with Adriane and this link is her runner’s sequence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hTllAb4XGg
Remember everyone starts somewhere, it’s not about being perfect at the posture, it’s about working with your body to gently increase your body’s flexibility and range of motion and to assist you in unwinding and building strength.
And finally I am reminded of a practice that I learnt about in my first years of study, but I must admit had forgotten about which is the beautiful practice of Qi Gong. This is a fantastic way to connect to your breath and to release stiffness within the body
So as I put these tools that we have such easy access to out there I hope it inspires you to start gently, and ease into practice allowing for your body to adapt and this leaves you in great shape for the summer and not limping from having done too much too soon.