Enormus respect for everything you represent – I believe that sublime’s all that comes on my mind to say. you are truly an inspiration, nature’s child of free spirit, ability of mental control, urge to push the limits, balance and simplicity, and all that together in my opinion is the highest one can get as a human being.
I would use your advice, my problem is flexibility. My body constitution is rather muscular (not to get the wrong idea, I’m no bodybuilder-type :)) I started climbing 7 years ago and I’ve been skiing all my life before that. Since I can remember in climbing power and endurance have never been a problem, technique came very naturally to me, but being flexible was always my weakness. I feel like if I could bring my foot where my hand held my performance would improve dramatically. I’ve tried yoga, I’ve tried stretching every day…besides not feeling comfortable in the positions, the next day I’d fell even more rigid and my whole body feels like beat up. I’ve been careful not to push too much and trying to make very very slow progression but I’m not sure if I’m on the right path or what to expect. I was wondering if you could help with a program, solution method, what could I be possibly doing wrong or what should I focus on. Any advice will be gratefully received and followed strictly.
I was always less flexible than most too, with climbing. Unlike many female climbers, I did not come into the sport as a former gymnast or dancer. I’ve been an avid trail runner for years, and I like to lift weights and carry around heavy packs–these are things that do not help with flexibility at all. For years I hated stretching because it felt bad and was boring. I would always rather “DO SOMETHING”…. People who are extremely athletic and muscular have much tighter muscles, and this can become a barrier to stretching.
As a result of that, I had unbelievably tight (and strong) hamstrings, and my lower back would hurt. I also noticed limitations in climbing because of my lack of flexibility. So I started to stretch and do yoga about 10 years ago. This made a huge difference in my climbing and my overall wellbeing. The problem I had with yoga was that I am usually pretty worn out from all my activity, and yoga can be extremely tiring as well. So sometimes it’s hard for me to have the energy for yoga, which means that I neglect stretching. However, if you stretch after working a muscle, you actually get 30% more strength gain from that muscle–this means that you have actually wasted 30% of your strength workout if you don’t stretch, which adds a lot of motivation. So in every possible way, stretching should be a top priority for both flexibility and strength.
When I went to Japan last summer and stayed with a yogi friend at the Yogajaya studio in Tokyo, he recommended that I step back from doing regular yoga poses completely, because his observation was that I was more drawn to meditation. His advice for me was to start a morning routine with a focus on extremely fundamental hamstring, sacrum and back stretches followed by meditation.
These few exercises are extremely simple, but over the course of even just the first few days, you notice real improvement in the large, tight muscle groups that I’m sure you have the same as me–hamstrings, hips and back. It only takes 10-20 minutes, unless you would like to stretch for longer, and then the meditation is whatever you want (if you want to meditate).
Start by sitting on the floor with legs straight in front of you, and simply reach forward towards your toes. Notice the stretch in the back of your legs, but also in your sacral area near the spine. The longer you can do this stretch, the better.
You can continue this by standing up and doing a normal forward bend. The next step is to cross one leg in front of the other and push the tip of your toe on the ground for balance. Now do a forward bend again, and you will feel the stretch targeting your hamstring. Do that with each leg, again, for as long as you have the patience.
Sit back down on the floor and cross your legs in front of you, trying to make a wide circle with your legs by having your feet and knees touching out ahead of you, rather than tucked under your thighs. Now reach your arms out and gently bend forward. This is an amazing stretch for the muscles in your hamstrings, and targets different muscles than the forward bend. Do that on each side.
The last thing he taught me is to take a yoga block and lie down on the floor (I had to buy one, and it was very worth it). Put the yoga block under your upper back on its flattest side, with the top just under your shoulder blades, raise your arms above your head and grasp your elbows with your hands and lie down with the block under your back. Your head and shoulders will be arched back toward the ground, and you should try to keep your lower back on the ground too. This is a stretch to open your chest and back muscles. As it becomes more comfortable, you can turn the block on different sides to make it higher. At first this hurt me and I actually found it kind of scary, and now I feel tight and bad if I don’t do it every day. It feels very good now to lie on the block.
After doing all these stretches, you can sit in meditation. Even if you don’t want to meditate, simply doing these extremely basic stretches will start to loosen your muscles. The key for athletes who have built muscle for years without stretching is to start with the simplest, most fundamental stretches, so I think this will be a great help for you. It will also keep you from having back pain, which is really important over time for people with overdeveloped leg muscles.