Try to stretch after exercise when you’re warm or if not stretching after exercise, to warm your muscles do at least 10 mins cardio as you’ll be at your most flexible then and least likely to pull a muscle. The Valentino Bro’s recommend approx 40 mins stretching, 3 times a week to obtain flexibility.
Don’t feel disheartened, I’ve been stretching for over a year too and can only do one of my front splits, after about 12 hours of exercise!
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Plateauing can be really frustrating when you’re stretching. You’re used to improving and then all of a sudden you just don’t seem to be getting any more flexible and think maybe you should just quit with all this stretching malarkey. But - do not fear - you will get through it!!!
Here are a few ideas to try to help you get through your plateau:
Accept it and try not to get too frustrated - many people will experience a plateau when they are trying to get more flexible, just as you do when you are trying to lose weight. One way to fight it is just to not let it bother you and carry on as you were before until you start progressing again.
Push yourself more - Often when you plateau, just giving that little bit more to your stretching will help you get your break through. Now be sensible about this - don’t go and force yourself into the middle splits if you’re half a meter away from the ground. But, you can try that little bit harder when you’re stretching, especially if you’ve been lacking drive lately in your stretching. This might involve holding your stretches for that little bit longer, doing another repetition or just generally putting more effort into stretching harder rather than stopping where’s comfortable. You are not going to increase your hamstring flexibility by stretching your hamstring to where you can’t feel anything at all - you need to feel a stretch and this may be uncomfortable. But remember, it’s ok to be uncomfortable but not ok to be in pain.
Change up your stretching program - Changing the way you stretch can sometimes be exactly what you need to make sure your body doesn’t get too used to what you’re doing to it!! If you normally stretch for one 30 minute slot, consider splitting this into two 15 minute slots. Or add some new stretches to your normal routine. Just do something different - to keep your body on its toes!
Take a break - This might sound counter productive, but sometimes a few days rest can be just what your body needs. Scrap stretching for a couple of days (not too long though!) and then go back to your usual routine. You may find your body starts responding to stretching better again and you’ll have given your muscles a rest and time to repair any damage properly.