Stretch into the splits before Christmas
Ballet expert Ashleigh Wilson from the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre Company tells us how to stretch into the splits before Christmas
I get asked all the time: “How long will it take me to do the splits?”
In all honesty, I might be the wrong person to ask. As a dancer, I live in the splits and I can’t remember not being able to do them. Although what I can say is that stretching has too many positive effects for the body to overlook and it’s far too common for people to omit stretching from their workouts.
Staying flexible as you get stronger is an effective way to prevent injury. It also relieves muscle pain in the days following a hard workout. Stretching during your workout creates longer, leaner muscles without the bulk, which is why it’s part of each one of my sessions. Stretching is also an amazing way to reconnect with the body and spend some time discovering how your body responds to different positions. Weaknesses throughout the body as well as how your left and right side differ, can be rectified if you’re aware of them.
When it comes to really stretching there are a few things to consider:
- Hold the stretch.
Research from the Journal of Physical Therapy shows you should hold your stretch for at least 30 seconds to enhance flexibility. Anything less won’t be as effective for the muscles. Be patient and get a timer out for accuracy. You don’t want your hard work going unrewarded!
- Be in the correct alignment.
You can easily compromise your stretching by being out of alignment, running the risk of tearing something. Make sure you’re properly instructed or clued up about the correct position when you’re on your own.
- Really stretch.
Stretching is painful, as much as the workout is. But it should feel like good pain. Push the body to improve but be instinctive, if it feels like bad pain (burning or sharp), it probably is.
- The warmer the better.
I never recommend stretching when you’re cold. Most injuries take place during incorrect warming up practices (myself included). When you’re sweaty and warm, the joints are looser because they have more fluid around them. The beneficial processes that happen in the body after exercise will be more efficient if you spend some time stretching whilst you cool down.
The routine below is a 4-minute post-workout stretch that will get you into the splits by Christmas.
30 SECONDS EACH
Each segment should be done for at least 30 seconds and don’t forget to do both sides. Do it once you’re hot and sweaty. At home, in the gym or outdoors.
To find out more about Ashleigh visit: www.ashleighwilson.net
Or follow @ashleighwilsondances.
Photographer: Yuebi Yang @yuebiyang.