5 Secrets to Flexibility Training, and Building a Following

For me, flexibility has never come easily. Two years ago I could barely touch my toes or press up into a backbend (wheel pose) without help.

Today, I can sit comfortably in a split, while enjoying my morning coffee.

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Jokes aside, when I decided to commit to flexibility training, I learned some big lessons. These lessons were not only about flexibility but about building a following on social media.

1) Take progress photos. And share them.

When I started working on flexibility, I took a contortion class where my instructor made us take progress photos. Sharing these photos (while uncomfortable at times) on Instagram kept me accountable.

I stumbled into a subculture dedicated to flexibility through sharing progress photos. “Today you’ll find a flourishing crowdculture around almost any topic” because subcultures are amplified in the age of social media (Holt, 2016). This community became my primary source of motivation. I received comments of encouragement from people I would never meet in person – my digital family.

Two years later, and I’m still sharing progress photos.

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2) It takes 30-days to form a habit.

I HATED stretching. All of my fitness instructors told me if I really wanted flexibility training to become a habit, I would have to do it for thirty days. To jumpstart my flexibility training I took on a 30-Day Split Challenge. My challenge was simple: do 20-40 minutes of active stretches for my splits every day for thirty days. Sounds easy, right? It wasn’t at first.

I shared weekly progress with hashtags like #30daysplitchallenge to tap into a community of people who were working towards similar goals. The positive affirmation I received from these posts really kept me motivated to keep going. I ended up extending the challenge to do a second month. Stretching had become a habit.

And on Day 65, I got my first split.

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Before I knew it, I had also gained almost 4 followers for every 1 person I followed. Why does this ratio matter? Because it showed me that being authentic in my content was the reason people followed me, not to get another follower in return.

People love an underdog.

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3) Flexibility is mental.

So, what is really happening when you’re stretching? The truth is this: you’re training your mind, “Exercises such as reaching for your toes train the nervous system to tolerate a greater degree of muscle extension without firing off pain signals.” (Ghose, 2014) Sounds silly – but you can’t deny science.

Each time I stretched, I knew I was training my mind to go a little bit further. If someone had told me, “one day you’ll put your head between your feet,” – I would’ve laughed.

Looks like the joke is on me.

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4) Gains come at the most unexpected times, don’t give up.

You never know when gains will occur. There will be weeks (and even months) where you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. That’s normal!

For me, when I am injured (ironically) is when I have the biggest gains in flexibility. Weird, right? Earlier in 2016, I hurt my left wrist and had to rest it for 3 months. During that time, I had my first center split roll-through and stood up from a back bend with one hand.

The video doesn’t lie – note the wrist brace.

5) Stay hydrated.

Muscle flexibility is highly dependent on your hydration. “If you’re looking for a quick fix for just about anything that ails you, water is it. And that goes for flexibility as well.”  (Kita, 2009).

Drink water, osmosis is not the way. Trust me.

 

Parting thoughts…

Don’t be afraid to show weakness, failure, progress and success on social media. Authenticity is the key to finding and building your community.

Happy bending!

Melissa Barker


References

  1. Holt, Douglas. “Branding in the Age of Social Media.” Harvard Business Review Mar. 2016: n. pag. Print.
  2. Ghose, Tia (2014, November 13). Does Stretching Increase Flexibility?. Retrieved July 8, 2016, from: http://www.livescience.com/48744-how-does-stretching-work.html
  3. Kita, Joe. (2009, April 14). Drink Water, Boost Flexibility. Retrieved July 8, 2016, from http://www.coreperformance.com/daily/one-small-change/drink-water-boost-flexibility.html