It’s a question I field often, both by students and clients of mine and members of my online stretch/yoga workout portal, TheFlexibilityCoach.com. I thought it might be helpful to write a blog entry to address the answer to this question, since I’m sure they’re not the only ones who are curious about this!
So here’s what I typically tell them, especially if I have not worked with them in person and therefore can’t assess where they’re current at in terms of their flexibility:
It really all boils down to patience, consistency, and a willingness to see what happens. Few of us really know where our body’s full potential flexibility or agility lies (genetically, I mean), because few of us have been in the position of specifically training in a way that would develop it to its full fruition. At the same time, there will come a point, once such training has been given an earnest, consistent effort, in which you’ll start to have a good idea of your body’s inherited biology, at which point you can then make decisions about where to go from there. It’s possible you’ll see evidence that your body has the ability to achieve that end goal, and it’s just a matter of patience and keeping steady progress. Or, your efforts may reveal that there are some limiting factors in your body’s physiology that will probably prevent you from achieving a stretch of that intensity, allowing you to revisit your initial goal and setting your sights on a slightly different goal.
Here’s an example regarding my running, since this wisdom applies pretty much across the board with all sports and fitness activities: I never thought I was capable of being a runner, due to having had lots of pneumonia and chest infections throughout my childhood and teenage years. In order to find out whether this was true, I had to make a commitment to train regularly and very (make that Very — capital “V” :)) gradually, using a program I’d chosen that looked like a good fit for me. I made two discoveries over the next few years: one, I love running! My body is quite capable of being very comfortable running 5-10 miles, which still blows my mind today. The second discovery was more sobering: I can run, but my body doesn’t run naturally. You know what I mean, you don’t look at me running and think, “Oh, gazelle.” I’m a solid middle-pack runner even on my best days, and while I can continue to set goals for myself and tweak my program to make improvements, it’s not likely I’ll see an age-group award at a race anytime soon, and I’ve had to let go of the fantasy that one day my body will run “easily” — for me, every workout requires the same effort and focus I needed that first year. Does this mean my experiment into running was a failure, because of these realities? On the contrary! The gifts I have received as a result of being willing to give it a go and see what happens are beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. But the path has unfolded differently than I initially envisioned.
Getting back to the question of The Splits: I have, for example, a stretch workout called, “Stretches to Master The Splits.” Assuming your doctor has given you the go-ahead, and assuming you’ve been working out (to give yourself a base), this workout will advance your flexibility in the direction towards achieving The Splits…..IF you do it regularly and correctly. And if it turns out that you have the genetic predisposition for such a stretch, over time, this workout can be your tool to getting yourself to that goal. But if it turns out you don’t have the genetics for that stretch in particular, as long as you stay wise and train smart (stay in your comfort zone, train with patience and perseverence), you WILL increase your flexibility no matter what, which undoubtedly will help you in other ways, be it your sport or your fitness level or even your everyday comfort and flexibility. Think of it this way: If you’re serious about this goal and you’ve explored this with your doctor and established a fitness base for yourself, aren’t you likely to be better off for having done the workout either way? Either you’ll achieve the splits or you’ll simply be more flexible than you are now. Sounds like an improvement, one way or the other!
I hope this clears it up — Good luck to you if this is your goal! For more information on The Splits and more “ordinary” flexibility goals, visit www.TheFlexibilityCoach.com.
And keep the questions coming, they help me to better help you!