When I was in junior high, I could take the index finger on my right hand and bend it backwards until the end of it touched the back of my hand. I was like a magician with the coolest trick in the show. I would be in science class, and someone would lean over and whisper, “Hey, Eric, do the finger thing.”
“Guys, listen. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a finger. And I’m not some one-trick pony, freak show. Let’s just do our homework and–BAM!!”
Arrogantly bends finger back and touches hand.
“Oh man!” shriek my fans.
Relishes in their awe.
“That’s nasty!” they say, in a good way.
Pushes finger a little harder to really milk the moment.
“Quit, dude! It’s gonna break!”
“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!” I quote from Gladiator, which will come out three years in the future.
Clearly embellishing dialogue.
Today, that finger barely bends halfway back. I’m currently typing this with a sore right index finger after trying to relive my glory days. My body has lost its Slinky-ness, and it’s my own fault.
A few weekends ago I was at a bar, which I do. My friends and I had merged with another group we met in one of the dark corners, and we’re all having a good time. The new group are strangers, but seem like good people.
There’s one girl in the group who is being exceptionally loud, dropping one-liners, and demanding the attention of everyone around her. She’s funny, but she’s starting to get on my nerves. I then realize, “Holy crap, this girl is me.” We’re like two positively charged magnets being pushed together–there’s an invisible force stopping us from getting along. We battle wits for a while at the amusement of her friends before we eventually start to appreciate each other. Now we’re an unstoppable force of jokes and high fives. That is until she looks at my socks.
“Oh hey, cool socks,” she says. “Let me see them.”
I prop my foot up on a bench, hunch over, and pull my pant leg up to show her my sock, which is hardly amazing.
Her reaction is not what I expect. She’s not even looking at my sock. She has a disappointed-concerned look on her face, and she’s examining my leg, which is not straightened, not elevated very high, and I am not reaching very far down.
“You are not flexible.”
“Hey screw you.”
“Seriously, dude, you need to do some yoga.”
My fitness life flashes before my eyes, and I am reminded of all the times I lifted, ran, played sports, etc., and didn’t stretch before or after. I always gambled that my youth would conquer inflexibility, but it has failed me miserably, and this girl has called me out on it. Regret washes over me.
Before and after workouts, I always look at the clock and think, “Eeeeh I don’t need to stretch. Not enough time.” Then I would go do something meaningless.
Since this attack on my flexibility, I have started stretching every G.D. day. I’ve picked up some more yoga, as well, despite my horrific flashbacks to previous yoga failures.
This brings me to advice: I’ve read a lot of information that says stretching after a workout is more important than stretching before it. I believe it. But I also know stretching before, more specifically–warming up, always makes me feel better during a workout. Ideally, this is what a workout should look like: Dynamic stretching, warm up, actual workout, cool down, and finally dynamic or static stretching. I’m sure several different sources will tell you a different kind of stretching is best before and after, and you may not agree with the ones I’ve picked, but these are very common and proven to work.
Personally, I notice improvements every day, and am relieved to know that I am not doomed to a life awkward body bends to put my shoes on. If you neglect stretching like I did, stop. There are too many benefits, too many risks for not, and too many girls who will put you on the spot for being clunky.