Strength and aerobic capacity decline with age. We can’t deny it but we know that if we continue to exercise we can slow the decline. Perhaps less talked about, but equally important to us swimmers, is that our flexibility also decreases as we age. This is due to an increase in something called a cross bridge, which are additional links between the collagen fibres at shorter intervals along the length. As a result the collagen in our connective tissue stiffens up. This in turn reduces the available stretch in the fibres.
Fortunately, like strength, flexibility can also be maintained through the right exercise routine. As with many things to do with the human body and mind it’s a case of use it or lose it.
In fact, things you already do to maintain your strength and aerobic capacity – such as swimming – will also help you maintain flexibility, but there’s more you can do:
Finally, don’t panic that you might have left it too late. Flexibility is actually quite easy to gain and maintain. We often hear people saying that they are simply inflexible and despite stretching they can’t develop muscle length. However it’s always possible to improve your flexibility and it just needs commitment to regular stretching over a long period. It’s true that some are physiologically going to be more flexible than others; however, everyone can improve with a little dedication.
If you run, bike, are desk-bound all day, or have been sitting in a car or plane traveling, your hamstrings could use some extra love and length. It not only feels good to stretch this commonly tight area, but hamstring flexibility is also important for the health of your back, hips, and knees. Here are six easy and essential stretches that target the backs of your legs. To avoid injury, it’s best to do them at the end of a workout, when the muscles are warm.
This stretch is good for your hamstrings and also loosens tight shoulders.
Easy to do anywhere and safe for injured backs, this hamstring stretch is great if you’re really tight.
If the previous stretch isn’t deep enough for you, then try this variation. It’s perfect for doing on a bench after a run in the park.
This basic stretch is perfect for targeting one leg at a time, and is great for those with really tight hamstrings.
This stretch targets both hamstrings as well as the lower back.
Here’s a relaxing way to stretch one hamstring at a time.