Almost as far back as I can remember, I have been inflexible. I have a vague memory that before puberty I could even put my leg over my head. By the time I was in high school, the only part of the Presidential Fitness Test that I would always fail was the Sit’n Reach – the test where you sit over a tape measure and try to reach beyond your toes. I used to blame it on my long legs. As my body was growing like crazy so now when I try a fold forward, I struggle even sit up straight, let alone lean forward. It doesn’t help that my dad’s side of the family also has a genetic history of bad hips joints or that I spend my days sitting at a computer desk.
Yet over the last year, I have become more flexible with help from weekly yoga classes with Lara, and stretching classes with Janet and Candace at the Secret Dance Studio. I can already feel stretch muscles now that I didn’t even know existed. For 2015, one of my new years resolutions is to do the splits. Not a cheater split, but a real split with both legs straight and ass on the ground. I am sure the ONLY way I can do this is if (1) I start stretching EVERY day and (2) I start quantifying my progress.
For my daily routine, I am following a website that I found (http://www.unique-bodyweight-exercises.com/splits.html), which claims ANYONE can learn to do the splits in only SIX weeks. The daily routine consists of 6 stretches: a forward hang, a supine hamstring stretch, a forward lunge, a karate-style side lunge, a standing quadriceps stretch, and finally the splits. The entire routine takes about 5-10 minutes, but I need to do it EVERY day. I will also keep stretching in my regular yoga and classes. The website claims that the biggest challenge is in Week 4, when you really have to start pushing your limits. Yet, I expect the biggest challenge will be continuing to stretch even when my work gets hectic and stressful.
That’s where this blog come in. If I start documenting this journey, perhaps I will have more incentive to continue. Here, I am going to take inspiration from my friend Alexis, who last fall set a crazy weight loss goal – 45 pounds in 10 weeks (that is over 20% of her weight). Honestly I didn’t think she had a chance. Yet she exercised every day, changed her diet, wrote about it on her blog, and she did it. (and she looks great!). But the best part was she graphed everything, weight loss, calorie intake, and more. Now my Excel skills are not as good as hers, but I will need a graph so I can quantify my progress. Instead of weight, I am going to plot my “ASS-TO-GROUND” distance. Specifically measured from top of my inner thigh to the floor.
I started my daily routine on Monday and I am on Day 4. My initial ASS-To-GROUND distance was 19 inches before any streching so I need get on average 0.46 inches closer to the ground every day. At the end of each daily routine, I will measure the ASS-TO-GROUND distance for my left, center, and right splits. My first major challenge was that it is really hard to hold a tape measure and do the splits at the same time. My form is not always very good. Sometimes my legs are straight, sometimes they bend a bit. Sometimes my front foot is forward, sometimes it is askew. While the website suggests that your back foot should be at a right angle to the split, that makes it really hard to square the hips, so everything becomes a center split to some extent. If I don’t do that you have to add an extra inch or so to my left and right split marks.
It felt like there was a lot of progress on Days 1 and 2, but there was so much variation in how I did the measurements it was hard to tell. While the floor doesn’t seem to be getting much nearer, the daily stretching has already strengthened my legs so that my form is getting better and my legs wobble less as I hold the pose. Hopefully that means there will be more downward progress soon. I will post more updates here. Do I think it’s possible for me to do the splits in six weeks? I’m really not sure. Yet given that I am always the least flexible person in my pole dance classes, if I can do this, any one can.