I’ve Never Been a “Flexible” Person, But Pilates Has Helped Loosen my Muscles Quite a Bit But Will it Ever Help me be Able to Touch my Toes or do The Splits?
AI’m often asked this question, and I always need to be truthful. I’d have to say that it depends. Although flexibility is one of the components of fitness that can be significantly improved, it’s also highly dependent on genetics.
Pilates Has Helped Loosen my Muscles Quite a Bit But Will it Ever Help me be Able to Touch my Toes or do The Splits? Photo Gallery
There are many different types of stretching and philosophies about the most effective strategies. In fact, one of my very talented colleagues, BASI Pilates Director for Advanced Education, Anthony Lett, offers a certificate course called Innovations in Pilates and has a book by the same title. Much of the work is about achieving improved flexibility and range of motion utilizing the Pilates apparatus and repertoire. Having experienced it myself, I can say that it’s highly effective.
Yet whether you’ll touch your toes or not will be determined by several factors. It depends on how close you’ve come to the physiological and genetic threshold of your muscles. It also depends on your body proportions. For instance, I’ve never found touching my toes to be difficult. Although I’m relatively flexible for a man, I also have very long arms relative to my legs. You may be built with the opposite proportions, having long legs and relatively short arms. So you see, it’s not only flexibility that dictates whether you can or will be able to touch your toes.
Although I’m the first to encourage setting goals and achieving those goals, I urge you to view healthy range of motion as being able to perform all your daily activities, including athletic and recreational pursuits, unencumbered and unrestricted. This will also translate to helping prevent injury. Although I had a successful career as a dancer, practiced yoga since my early teens and have been a Pilates professional for 38 years, doing the splits has eluded me my entire life.
I have partaken in many athletic activities, from swimming and gymnastics to windsurfing and snowboarding to mountain biking and paragliding, and been relatively injury free. It’s not only flexibility that’s important, but rather, a good balance of flexibility and strength. Next time you see a beautiful ballerina assume a split position in full flight, remember that her extreme mobility comes with its own challenges. The grass is not always greener on the other side, so keep looking at your toes, and enjoy the journey toward reaching them.