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Today I want to focus on flexibility. It is the third leg of the fitness tripod and together with strength and endurance it creates that perfect balance required for optimum fitness. It is the result of stretching and has incredible impact on our bodies. Flexibility of mind as a discipline in our daily lives is defined as a willingness to yield, to be pliable and adaptable. It is a powerful concept, which speaks not just to the impact on our bodies but to its influence on our mind. In a youth-oriented world, a flexible approach to living is more pertinent than ever. We are living 15–20 years longer than previous generations. In the words of Deepak Chopra: ”The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30-50 years.”
What is a flexible mind? People who are flexible in mind are resilient and adaptable. They see failure and mistakes as part of the life process so they bounce back from adversity more quickly. Flexibility allows them to see the opportunity in everything. What looks like an obstacle to some is seen as an opportunity for growth to the flexible thinker. Pearl Zhu puts it well, “A flexible mind has a better chance to think differently and take a unique path in the life journey.”
In the words of Terrence Real: “The rule that surpasses all rules is that you must be connected, willing to see what’s in front of you, and willing to move if what you are doing isn’t working.”
In terms of physical fitness flexibility or stretching has immeasurable benefits. Part of being fit means being able to respond quickly to changing environments and terrain, which in turn helps build different muscles and keeps the mind sharp. With a flexible body you retain greater motor control and ability to respond to your environment. Greater flexibility also means extended range of motion around your joints which helps you to utilise the full potential of your muscles. It supports functional movement, allowing you to perform the movements you need on a daily basis with greater ease.
Maintaining flexibility prepares your body for quick mobility during a workout. In addition, it increases blood flow to the muscles and helps protect against certain diseases. A study in the American Journal of Physiology showed that for people age 40 and over, flexibility of the body was accompanied by flexibility in the arteries, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, it aids in good posture. Flexible bodies are often equated with youth simply because children are naturally pliable. Without flexibility adults become less agile and more prone to injury. Apart from our own stretching which we can all do at any time, the practice of yoga is designed to gently stretch your entire body, including internal organs. Pilates with its holistic approach to all muscle groups, joints, and spine, also adds grace to our movement, reduces the risk of many injuries, and improves balance.
The impact of flexibility on both mind and body is truly empowering. In the words of Bruce Lee: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, and the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
Jason Kravits puts it beautifully, “Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.”
Today I am extremely happy to share the fitness story of Michael Pitts, age 33. His journey to weight loss and wellness is ongoing and I am inspired and motivated by his dedication and commitment. Stay flexible, my friends, and keep training.
BA English Honours/Spanish
CIAR Cert [Cooper’s institute of Aerobic Research]
For most of my life I have dealt with weight issues. I had poor eating habits from young and I was never very active. By 2007, at the ripe old age of 22, I was over 500 lbs and being told by my doctor that I have to go on medication immediately for high blood pressure; if my pressure went any higher I could have had a stroke. It was very depressing news to say the least, but I knew I had to, for the first time in my life, put some serious effort into living a healthier lifestyle.
I began by just walking around my neighbourhood daily and cutting back on the amount of junk food I ate and my portion sizes at meals. After about six months, I worked up enough courage to join a gym. I got on a workout plan and sought professional nutritional advice and by 2011 I was down to about 290 lbs and generally felt healthier.
Eventually though, the routine started to get a little boring and this coincided with the dreaded plateau where no matter how hard I thought I worked and how much healthier I thought I ate, I was stuck. I began to get discouraged and started to fall back into my old bad habits, going back up to around 340 lbs.
Eventually, in an effort to find new avenues to continue my weight loss journey, I stumbled upon CrossFit. For me personally, I would say going to that first class in 2013 was probably the best decision I ever made. I was hooked immediately. Though it was intimidating at first, the workouts were always scaled to my fitness level and I never felt bored with it as there was constant variation.
What really sealed the deal for me was the community aspect. Everyone encouraged you while keeping you accountable—whether it be that last rep in a workout or with your diet. I have trained at two CrossFit gyms in T&T (currently I’m at IGone CrossFit) and at both, most will say, it’s the community that keeps you coming back. Since starting, I have gotten down to 230 lbs, though now I obsess less over the numbers on the scale and more on my physical capacity and my ability to perform workouts and exercises that I once thought was impossible for me. It has become such a passion that I’m now looking to get certified as a trainer.
If I have to offer any advice to anyone who is struggling with weight loss, it would be to just get up and start somewhere. Naturally, now I would say try CrossFit. But really, just getting up and being active, like a walk every day for just 20 minutes, would be a good place to start. Also, don’t be discouraged if it goes slow. It has been 11 years for me and my journey is still ongoing. Just know that with a little effort you will get there.
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