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One Small Change

Why Stretch?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been lectured about stretching for decades but still aren’t doing it regularly. Let’s face it: When you only have limited time to exercise, touching your toes is the first thing that goes. But as I get older and awaken daily to creaks that aren’t coming entirely from the bedsprings, I’ve become acutely aware of flexibility’s importance to performance—and life.

I’m listening to Mike, an anatomy expert who’s speaking at a body-mind workshop in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He’s describing dissecting a human being—what it's like to peel back the layers of a corpse to understand its inner workings. I’m familiar with the various body systems (cardiovascular, nervous, muscular…), but he says there’s one that’s under-appreciated. He explains that our bodies consist of an intricately interconnected web of tendons and tissue called fascia. It’s a sheath that, among other things, allows us to coordinate movement. When we’re young, this sheath is like a Fruit Roll-Up. It’s stretchy and supple, and it fits us like a thin rubber suit. When you slice into it, says Mike, it’s soft and pink.

But with age and habitual movement or disuse, our Fruit Roll-Up suit slowly transforms into beef jerky. It becomes dry and dehydrated. It resists movement rather than facilitating it. Whereas once our sheath freed us to run and jump and move with coordinated ease, now it is a cage that imprisons us. In fact, for those who fail to tend it, it becomes like a prison sentence—something to be endured.

I never looked at it this way. I always thought my accumulating aches and pains were coming from individual joints, muscles and old injuries. I never suspected these were warning signs from an entire body system that was beginning to break down.

And frankly, it scared me. So much so, that this month I’ve finally decided to heed the advice I’ve been hearing for years and start stretching daily. In fact, I have the ideal opportunity to do so. I’m scheduled to go on a three-week cruise across the Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. I’ll have plenty of time to cultivate a new habit and gauge the effects it has on me physically, mentally and maybe even emotionally. Like the earth in spring, it’s time to wake up my body—to make one small change that could potentially bring big results.

I invite you to join me—for the stretching, that is, not the cruise.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Mobility, Movement Preparation, Stretching, Flexibility