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 last post 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.
To catch up, read the blog post here.
Helpful Flexibility Beliefs
Flexibility beliefs that support flexibility progress relate to your physical and emotional resilience, your confidence in your ability to cope and acknowledge that ultimately you are in charge of your own progress and participation.
The belief that your body is strong, capable, and able to withstand extreme and variable loads.
‘My body is designed to stretch.’
‘I am strong and capable.’
‘My spine is strong and healthy.’
The belief that your body adjusts to the demands you apply during training and that you learn, heal and grow by challenging your mind and body.
‘There is no bad movement, only movement I am not yet ready for.’
‘Each time I stretch I learn more of what my body can do.’
‘I need to load my injured tissue so that it can heal and become strong again.’
The belief that you are empowered by your decisions and can positively impact your training through your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
‘I can sit with this discomfort.’
'There are many things that I can do to make stretching challenging but tolerable.’
‘I am in control of this stretch.’
The belief that non-judgmental acknowledgment of the reality of a situation allows for positive action, gratitude and increased tolerance.
‘Pain during stretching is normal.’
‘There are risks involved in all exercise.’
‘I am happy with my progress.’
‘It will take time and effort, but my flexibility will improve.’
If you hold helpful flexibility beliefs, you will pay less attention to the unpleasant physical reactions that are normal to experience when stretching, stretching is going to feel more tolerable, and you are more likely to train consistently. Training consistently leads to reduced pain sensitivity, increased tolerance to stretch and reinforces your helpful flexibility beliefs.
Changing Flexibility beliefs
You may have noted some unhelpful flexibility beliefs from the last post that you think may be holding you back. 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:
1). Humans are by nature cautious and tend to weigh protective evidence more heavily than the alternative.
2). We have all been told that particular movements, or stretching specifically, is dangerous or damaging.
3). 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 (Read more about pain and stretching here).
In the next blog post, I will discuss some practical exercises you can work on to help you foster more helpful flexibility beliefs, so your training is both more productive and more enjoyable.
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