The good news is that anyone at any age can change their flexibility level. Just start right from where you are now and build on it day by day. If you don't know how to start, it's best to take some private lessons with an instructor that can assist you in gently stretching your body and taking it further than you can on your own.
The next best thing is DVD's or classes from a qualified instructor. It would also be valuable wherever you study or train in martial arts to make sure there is a proper warm-up and cool down lead by someone who has already achieved a healthy level of flexibility. This will be a valuable investment into your health that keeps on giving. If you include regular stretching before and after training, it can help keep your body youthful for the rest of your life! As a professional martial artist/flexibility expert for over 20 years, I regularly witness people of any age dramatically increase their flexibility, continually progressing and training at peak levels, when they regularly practice the following routines:
- Flexibility training
- Meditation and visualization
- Cross-training (to give the other muscles used during martial arts practice a chance to recover)
- Regular maintenance of kung fu skills, while working on mastering something new
- Supplements (everyone has different needs; for my body calcium, vitamin D and Sun Chlorella is a must)
- Sleep (when our body repairs muscles and processes new information)
Also, stretching is a critical tool in anti-aging because by gaining flexibility one loses that hunched-over posture and appears more youthful -- gaining the ability to perform martial arts with fluidity and ease.
If one is working out without stretching, there's is an imbalance in the body. Doing just one or two stretches is not enough because everything is connected. Stretching and strengthening the entire body will create balance that will leave you feeling free and open. It's sad how many injuries, unnecessary surgeries and use of pain medication could be prevented if people only knew how to properly stretch themselves.
When many martial artists perform the side kick, often the t-band (low back, outer hip area) gets tighter and tighter. That can get really painful and limit your training. Most people don't know how to keep that area in balance/open. Once you know the proper routine of stretches the pain leaves and one is able to kick even higher and with more ease!
It's important to know that practicing stretches in a specific order can help the body to open up faster. For example, before you can effectively stretch the hamstrings and the line up into lower back, one must stretch the calves thoroughly first.
In all my DVD's and when I work with clients, I show some of these stretches in the proper order to help prepare the body for each following stretches:
- Upper body (It's important not to forget about stretching the upper body, shoulders, arm, hands and waist)
- Lower legs/Calves/Feet
- Inner Thighs/Groin area
To help you follow this routine, look for me in the (hard-copy) March/April issue of Kung Fu Magazine. It will be on stands February 1st. In it you will find me demonstrating the proper order and way to perform the stretches. You may also order it from www.kungfumagazine.com
There will also be an online clip on their website where I will demonstrate a really good outer-hip stretch!