How Quickly Can You Improve Flexibility?
How many of us out there have had the “Omg. My hamstrings are so tight that at this point they aren’t actually muscle tissue any more. They’re just steel cables that run down my legs and keep me from ever touching my toes, making tying my shoes impossible, and all those squats we do at AFS basically miserable” experience before?
In addition to that, how many of us have had the “there’s no amount of stretching or foam rolling that could ever possibly make this better” mentality? I’m not going to lie: that has not been my personal experience. BUT, I happen to know a guy who has had this type of experience:
That’s right, AFS’s very own Kemper Sosa. Now, a little back-story: Kemper and I have worked together on and off with massage pretty much since I started working for AFS. AND the topic of his crazy tight hamstrings has come up on more than one occasion. Usually that occasion is something like, “omg. I hurt my back. You think it could be related to my hamstrings?” or “Katie, check this out! Is this flexible or what?!”
Over time, I decided that he would be the perfect subject for a little experiment that I wanted to run. I wanted to know: If we did just two weeks of concentrated mobility work, how much change could we really get in a short amount of time? I wonder this, because most of my days are spent trying to figure out how to get you (yes you, reading this blog), to believe that stretching and mobility can make an actual, tangible, real life difference to your body. And then to actually do it. So I figured, “hey, let’s take someone who’s hamstrings are tighter than the cables on the Mackinaw Bridge, and see what we can do in just two weeks”.
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t tell Kemper, but I was not terribly optimistic. Which sounds crazy, right?! I’m the massage and mobility girl! Of all people, I should have more faith than anyone that this stuff works! And I do… on the outside. On the inside, I wasn’t so sure. But I wanted to try anyway.
So here’s what Kemper agreed to do:
For two weeks we would meet 3 times a week for 15 min. of concentrated mobility work, where I would give him different techniques to work on. We would partner stretch, foam roll, etc. Then 2 times a week on his own, he would do his own foam rolling work (I think what convinced him to do this was me saying “hey. You can do it while you’re watching Game of Thrones. Two birds with one stone!”)
Our first day of working together, I took some pictures to see what we would be starting with:
So yes, tight hamstrings. And we got to work! We met up on our scheduled times, and on our off days, I would text Kemper gentle (*ahem* passive aggressive *ahem*) reminders to foam roll, and we simply waited to see how things would shake out.
Now, here’s the interesting thing. Even with the best of intentions, we did not do a fantastic job of adhering to our planned schedule. One day he couldn’t stick around for more than 5 min, another day I couldn’t make it. You know… life happens. So let’s say that we hit our target plan at 93% adherence rate. Not terrible, but it certainly wasn’t helping my doubting mind.
So, the two-week marker came up, and it was time for us to re-test and see how far we got. And it wasn’t until we compared the beginning pics to the end pics that I really appreciated what we had done.
Holy cow! It actually worked! I’m not going to lie, I was pretty stunned that in 2 weeks, with less than 2.5 hours of work we had managed to affect a significant change on hamstrings that I had just written off as a lost cause (sorry Kemper).
And I love this. It’s one of the most rewarding parts about my job… being surprised, having my doubting mind proved wrong, and helping people at the same time. I have been teaching mobility, doing massage, and doing/teaching yoga for years. Even after all this time, I still experience doubt at how much of a difference something so straightforward can make. And yet, time and time again, I have seen simple (yet hard) techniques rock people’s worlds! Techniques that have made stiff shoulders move again, brought relief to years old back pain, and now, even given movement to stiff-as-steel hamstrings.
What We Learned
- Mobility actually works! It might not give you a six pack abs, but it can definitely make living in an aging body more comfortable.
- It doesn’t take much! The body is an adaptive mechanism. Very much the “monkey see, monkey do” type philosophy. Even a few movements each day can make a profound difference.
- If you don’t use it, you lose it (don’t worry, I already mentioned this to Kemper). Once you get your mobility back, it’s much like weight training! Those biceps don’t maintain themselves 😉
Now, if you are someone struggling with tight hamstrings, and would like to know what kinds of techniques to use, take a peek below. We’ve included a number of video links in this post for the movements that Kemper and I used. Not sure about them? Come try one of our Mobility Solution classes, try a one-on-one mobility class, or connect with your practitioner. Either way, we’ll take good care of you and help you out 🙂