Flexibility beliefs are not simply what you think about stretching; they are complex narratives that help you make sense of yourself, others and the world in ways related to flexibility training. They are the context by which you understand flexibility and reflect your fundamental understandings, experiences and values related to other aspects of your life. Flexibility beliefs are not universal truths, but you are constantly, mostly subconsciously, gathering evidence to support these beliefs and dismissing evidence to the contrary.
The first post in this series focused on common unhelpful flexibility beliefs; beliefs that reinforce behaviour that is detrimental to your progress (e.g. avoiding training things that are challenging), heighten unpleasant physical sensations and evoke uncomfortable emotions.
The last post in this series explored helpful flexibility beliefs. These relate to adaptability, personal control, acceptance and robustness. Helpful flexibility beliefs lead to reduced sensitivity and increased tolerance to stretch as they support consistent, challenging, safe and mindful flexibility training.
Nurturing helpful flexibility beliefs
It’s tough to change beliefs because they are part of how we understand the world and never just about flexibility. We also rarely think to question what we believe because we ... believe it. Unfortunately, when it comes to flexibility beliefs, the scales are stacked in favour of unhelpful beliefs because:
-Humans are by nature cautious and tend to weigh protective evidence more heavily than the alternative.
-We have all been told that particular movements, or stretching specifically, is dangerous or damaging.
-Stretching often feels unpleasant due to its impact on our autonomic nervous system, so it’s easy to think that something is wrong and want to act on this.
But we can change what we believe.
To change your flexibility beliefs, you need to;
- Develop an awareness of your unhelpful flexibility beliefs and practise challenging unhelpful thoughts that arise from these beliefs.
- Identify meaningful, relevant and helpful flexibility beliefs that resonate with you.
- Create opportunities to challenge unhelpful flexibility beliefs and gather evidence to support helpful beliefs.
Exercise 1: Flexibility Thought Monitoring
1. Challenge yourself to stay in an intense stretch and be mindful of your thoughts. Are any thoughts unhelpful, repetitive or insistent? When you strongly want to avoid a stretch or training session, what thoughts do you notice?
Write these down. There is no right or wrong. Remember, thoughts are not facts.
2. What common unhelpful flexibility beliefs do your most insistent beliefs relate to?
- Danger / Damage Beliefs; The belief that stretching is unsafe, dangerous and will cause damage.
- Vulnerability Beliefs; The belief that there is something about you/your body that makes stretching unsafe for you.
- Distress intolerance; The belief that you cannot cope with difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations and that you must avoid / escape / get rid of them.
- Unrealistic / inflexible standards; Relentlessly striving for complete certainty or extremely high, unrealistic, and inflexible personal standards, despite their negative impact.
For examples, Read the blog post here
3. Reflect on:
- Why do you think you hold this belief?
- does this belief serve you? / In what ways do you think this belief is helpful to you?
- Is it still beneficial for you to hold this belief? In what ways does this belief hold up your flexibility progress?
4. What more helpful flexibility belief would you benefit from nurturing?
- Robustness beliefs; The belief that your body is strong, capable, and able to withstand extreme and variable loads.
- Adaptability beliefs; The belief that your body adjusts to the demands that you apply during training, and that you learn, heal and grow through challenging your mind and body.
- Capability beliefs; The belief that you are empowered by your decisions and can positively impact your training through your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
- Acceptance beliefs; The belief that non-judgmental acknowledgment of the reality of a situation allows for positive action, gratitude and increased tolerance.
For examples, Read the blog post here
Hopefully, this exercise has given you some insight into the unhelpful beliefs that are holding back your flexibility progress, and you identify the helpful flexibility beliefs that you would benefit from nurturing. The next post in this series will look at how to interrogate unhelpful thoughts related to flexibility training and how you might reframe these thoughts in helpful and meaningful ways.