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T


here’s more to fitness than just pure strength – flexibility and mobility mat- ter too. In your teens and early twenties,


your body recovers rapidly and you’re still naturally flexible. But as the years pass, even basic movements like squat- ting and lifting can become labored and difficult.


Firefighters often suffer from


the “it won’t happen to me” syndrome – but it will. If you want to spend three decades in this dangerous and physically demanding job, you’ll have to be aware of the roles flexibility and mobility play in preventing injuries.


Flexibility


WHAT IS IT? Flexibility refers to the ability of a


muscle to lengthen without breaking or tearing. Being flexible allows you to move your body throughout space with relative ease. As we age, flexibility tends to decrease, making activities of daily living (ADL) increasingly difficult and painful.


WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Flexibility


is involved in everything


from the most complex power movements involved in sports, to the most mundane, ev- eryday activities like using the restroom. It’s important to include flexibility training such as stretches, dynamic warmups, and full range of motion (ROM) activities into your exercise program in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Loss of flexibility often results in a decrease in quality of life. Lacking flexibility can cause aches and pains when moving around and can also lead to severely limiting injuries.


HOW DO YOU IMPROVE IT? The best way to improve flexibility is to never lose it; so never stop moving and stretching on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that may not always be the case for everyone. If you have already lost significant flexibility or may not be very flexible currently, there’s good news: there’s still time to get it back!


36 • August 2016


First, begin by identifying the physical


problem area(s). These areas will likely be in pain, tight, stiff, and/or sore. Most common areas in need of increasing flexibility are the neck, shoulders, hips, and low back, and hamstrings. Once you have identified the areas that you need to improve, incorporate light stretches and dynamic move- ments targeting these areas into your workout regimen. If you don’t already


have a workout routine, begin one. Add a dynamic warmup to the beginning of your program, and include 5-10 minutes of static stretching at the end.


Guidelines for flexibility training • Don’t overdo it; work within your limits. • Pay attention to your breathing. Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation. • Choose flexibility exercises from all muscle groups, improve everywhere.


• Warm muscles lengthen more easily and with less discomfort. The best time to do flexibility training (static stretching) is after your workout.


There are many methods of flex-


ibility training that promote relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, Pilates, and breathing


techniques. Gradually pro-


gressive programming is the key to suc- cess, so wherever you are, that’s right where you begin. You should start see- ing improvements in just the first week of stretching!


Flexibility is a fundamental component of FF/PM Paul Saavedra’s (12-A) exercise program


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