The dog days of COVID-19 have afforded me lots (and I mean lots) of free time to think about all sorts of things. Things that would have probably never crossed my mind had life as we once knew it proceeded as normal back in March. Random stuff like, “Can I drive in the middle of a weekday from L.A. to San Diego for a burrito and a car wash?” Or: “What would happen if I bleached my own hair for the lols?”
But that was all in months one through four of the pandemic. These days, the thought that won’t stop rattling around my head has to do with flexibility — i.e., “Can I get mega limber if I just start stretching, like, everyday?”
Why I’m thinking about undertaking a stretch challenge should be fairly obvious. For one, what else am I going to do? I’ve baked all the things, watched all the TV and had all the sex with my girlfriend, who is now pregnant with our daughter. For another, it’s because I’m no longer a limber man. That’s what happens when you stop playing organized sports a decade-and-a-half ago.
Which might seem like a “meh” reason to you, but stretching has its health benefits, and I’ve got my future child to consider, thankyouverymuch. According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching “increases flexibility, which helps keep you mobile, improves circulation, promotes better posture and helps prevent injury,” among other advantages — pretty good news if you’re at risk of becoming a total slouch who’s afraid of falling while getting up to go to the bathroom.
Anyway, back to the question at hand: If I really dedicated my time and effort to it for an entire month, could I improve my range of motion significantly?
“Definitely,” Damien Brown, a personal trainer in L.A., assures me. “If you can make it part of your daily routine and you’re diligent about it, without a doubt. But not if you’re only going to do some butterfly stretches, or touch your toes for 10 seconds each day. You’ve got to focus on stretching smarter.”
What’s the smart way, you ask?
For the answer to that question, I went to someone who should know — El Segundo-based flexologist Mikael Andrzej. “Static stretching [i.e., holding a stretch for a period of 10 to 45 seconds], while arguably beneficial for preventing injury, isn’t going to net you the same results on its own as dynamic stretching [i.e., working a part of your body in quick bursts].”
“That said,” he adds, “the best is a combination of the two: Dynamic stretching before a workout to warm up the muscles and static stretching after you’re done when your muscles are still warm and can push beyond your normal range of motion you unlocked earlier.”
Next, I ask him about my current, um, stretch game — two-hour afternoon walks my girlfriend and I have been taking around our neighborhood. “That’s perfect,” Andrzej says. “There’s a good stretch you can do before you go, too: Stand facing a wall and, using it for balance, swing your left leg up and away from your body, then let it swing down across your body. Do that 10 times, and switch legs. Afterwards, turn perpendicular to the wall, then swing your legs straight out and back behind your body. Do 10 reps on each leg, same as before.”
“Do that before walking, everyday like clockwork, along with static stretches like you’re probably used to when you’re cooling down,” he continues. “I’d be surprised if you don’t start seeing an increased range of motion within a week, let alone a month.”
Hell, yeah — anybody down to do the splits with me in September?