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Noah Stacy 09-29-2008 11:14 AM

Improving Flexibility
 
Having just returned to aikido after a few years away, I was reminded in my first trip back to the mat yesterday of my rather limited flexibility. This has always been the case for me--even as a kid, I could never touch my toes; I still can't now. Sitting with my legs spread, I can probably get to something rather less than a ninety-degree angle (and certainly can't touch my toes that way either).

I'd love to improve on this. My current exercise, outside of aikido, consists of riding my bicycle to/from school each day, weather and light permitting. It's about a 12 mile round trip. I'll be transitioning to swimming soon, in anticipation of my eventual relocation to Manhattan, where I wouldn't dream of setting wheels to pavement.

Any advice folks might offer would be appreciated!
(PS: Apologies if this is off-topic for the General forum, since it's tangential to aikido; feel free to move if it would be happier elsewhere.)

lbb 09-29-2008 03:53 PM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
Like most things, if you want to develop flexibility you have to be somewhat systematic about it. That means finding the stretches that will enhance the kind of flexibility you're looking for, doing them consistently, doing them the right way, and doing the right thing re: injury prevention and treatment. No shortcuts or magic bullets. If you do a google search for Brad Appleton's stretching FAQ, you'll have a lot of info to get you started off, on the physiology of flexibility, different stretching methods and how to do them.

Sy Labthavikul 09-29-2008 04:22 PM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
I was in the same boat as you, Noah: stiff as a board, and I had very short, tight muscles and ligaments. While doing frontbends I could barely touch mid-shin, and my shoulders had limited range of motion. This lack of flexibility resulted in my acquiring a slew of over-use injuries from my training, in aikido, running, and bodyweight exercises: i developed plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis, always had stiff hips, and had chronic neck stiffness.

I started doing yoga consistently: first a one hour class two times a week, then as I got more experienced and comfortable (probably 3 months) I started going to class 4 times a week, then i started doing yoga on my own (once my instructor felt my form was correct) every day before I went to bed. I didn't do it for long: maybe 20 minutes or so, but I did it every day, just a little bit, and this was when I started having the most improvement.

Now after about a year, without much effort i can bend over and put my entire palm on the floor. I can do a backbend now (though its very ugly). I rarely get injuries anymore.

How has this translated into my aikido? Well, I've noticed it takes people a lot more effort to get me to tap out when they pin me, especially the sankyo and nikkyo ground pins. I love those pins because they help me stretch out my shoulder even more. Most joint lock techniques don't quite have much oomph to me anymore, which makes me a better uke: I don't fall just because of application of pain anymore, the nage really has to lock out my musculature and take my balance to get me down.

But the key to all this was steady, consistent progression, pushing yourself just a little bit each week, and listening to your body.

Good luck!

Tinyboy344 09-29-2008 07:26 PM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
yep yep just keep stretching and push your limit a little bit everytime then eventually...... unless you're asian then that $#!t just comes naturally ;-)

CarrieP 09-30-2008 06:14 AM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
Doing some kind of stretching regimen on a regular basis is one of the better ways to improve flexibility, whether that is yoga, "warm-up" stretches, or something else.

I'm not as flexible as I'd like to be and there are places where I'm very tight. When I started, I could not touch my toes either standing or sitting. That was 10 months ago. Now I can, so my new goal is to be able to touch my toes while bending at the waist.

I've found that even 5-10 minutes of stretching at lunchtime, on the day of my aikido class, makes a big difference on how much I can stretch during class. I also try to stretch on off days when possible.

I was at a long seminar this past weekend, and noticed that I was much more flexible at the end of the day than I was at the start of the day. I think this was partly because I stretched several times during the seminar, and partly because my muscles were warmed up and limber from doing aikido all day.

Noah Stacy 09-30-2008 09:07 AM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
Thanks all! I'll take a look at the flexibilty FAQ--it looks like it has very good info. I'd love to add yoga, but I don't think it would fit into my schedule on top of aikido.

mwible 09-30-2008 10:31 AM

Re: Improving Flexibility
 
Quote:

Noah Stacy wrote: (Post 217182)
Having just returned to aikido after a few years away, I was reminded in my first trip back to the mat yesterday of my rather limited flexibility. This has always been the case for me--even as a kid, I could never touch my toes; I still can't now. Sitting with my legs spread, I can probably get to something rather less than a ninety-degree angle (and certainly can't touch my toes that way either).

I'd love to improve on this. My current exercise, outside of aikido, consists of riding my bicycle to/from school each day, weather and light permitting. It's about a 12 mile round trip. I'll be transitioning to swimming soon, in anticipation of my eventual relocation to Manhattan, where I wouldn't dream of setting wheels to pavement.

Any advice folks might offer would be appreciated!
(PS: Apologies if this is off-topic for the General forum, since it's tangential to aikido; feel free to move if it would be happier elsewhere.)

So you said that you ride your bike every day, but you didn't mention stretching. So my advice is slow deliberate stretch's before and after every bike-ride.

-morgan


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