In this article, Giles Wily shares on stretching verses restoration and recuperation. Giles Wiley is an exercise and movement specialist and author of “Five-Minute Flexibility”.
Kevin: So let’s get started. I’m here with Giles Wiley. He’s an exercise and movement specialist. And he’s the author of “Five-minute Flexibility”. Doesn’t that sound good? The rapid release of tight and tired muscles.
Tell me a little bit about how you started with flexibility, how you can do this in five minutes. I mean, we [don’t have] to cover all this stuff now, but just tell me how you started, and what we’re going to talk about today.
Giles : Okay, Kevin. Well, the journey for me pretty much started about twenty years ago.
I was heavily involved with martial arts at that time, with training, training myself and also with trying to teach a few other people. And our tradition back then was we would warm up for about ten, fifteen minutes. And then we’d sit down on the ground, and we’d go through a series of static stretches, and we’d force and pull ourselves into these difficult positions, and it would be painful and uncomfortable.
And then also at]twenty minutes of that, you’re expected to stand up and be [out] to go into a class where you were doing kicks and jumps. And I realized pretty quickly – well, when I say pretty quickly, it took a few years – but I realized quite soon that I actually felt better after the initial warm-up than I
did after the stretching.
Kevin: Really? Okay.
Giles : The stretching is anything. The forced stretching, I mean, really. Really, that the forced stretching made me feel tired, made me feel tight and sluggish. It would then take me a while to get going again. And I spoke to numerous people who had the same feeling. And we all just kept going with it, cause it was tradition. In martial arts, [our] tradition was that [if] they think, and you don’t really question once [in the sense] that they teach it.
But I did eventually start to question it. And I eventually cut out the static stretching, and realized that I can actually get my initial warm-up down to only a few minutes and feel good. And then eventually I cut it down to actually nothing, and could kick and hit high or drop down to a split.
You know, part of my thing was, it’s how muscle already has the length that we need for almost all but the most extreme of activities. And [naturally] the premise where I’m coming from, I first discovered that when I was studying in South Africa with a world renowned expert called [Nell Steve], who was one of the first people in the world to translate a lot of the former communist and the Soviet Republic’s training papers to sports science.
Giles : And he translated these papers and he put them into some books. But one of the big things was, our muscles have the length that we need for all but the most extreme [inaudible] tasks. And I keep really really nag cause it’s so important. So, it is not the muscle length that’s limiting us. What is it? And it’s our ability to let go of the tension we hold in the muscle and allow our muscle to express it’s
true length. That’s what’s limiting us.
So, once we start to look at it from that point of view, then no longer [are] we spending all that time trying to lengthen this muscle. We’d rather spending our time trying to release the muscle.
That was a big shift for me. And I kind of went off on a bit of a pilgrimage. I actually did sell [away] my possessions. I was twenty-one at that time. I sold everything I had and packed my few left belongings in a backpack and traveled off to various places around the world to study with different people. Most
Giles : In Martial arts but also in the sports sciences and anything I could do to read or get my hands on to do with human performance. You know, I researched and I read and started putting together things into a system.
And if anybody sort of reads the beginning of my book, they’ll read a little story that I tell which is about waking up one morning in intense pain and this is, I was training eight hours a day, six days a week, back then.
And I would often wake up in incredible pain, and I started using some of my techniques for not just releasing muscle tension, but for also relieving the pain. And I started to find, not only did they relieve the pain and improve my flexibility, but they also started to increase my energy levels.
So, I started playing with this. And eventually, it became a system that is now “Five-minute Flexibility”.
Kevin: Right. And why don’t we run over just a little bit about the different types of stretching?
Giles : Sure. Static stretching is basically getting into a stretch position setting. It’s putting the muscle in a lengthened position where it’s [bound] to get a little uncomfortable. It’s [going] to feel tight, but it’s not painful, and holding it. And most of the organizations – the personal training, and fitness and sports conditioning organizations in this country – will say that a static stretch is holding any position for longer than thirty seconds.
Personally, I feel any longer than ten seconds, I’d define that as a static stretch. I feel once you start going longer than ten seconds, you can actually feel the muscle getting tired.
And, a change happens in the body and if you let it go after ten seconds, you’d actually feel a little bit more sluggish.
Kevin: Is this like cudging your toes, kind of stuff? Touching you toes and …
Giles : Exactly, exactly. So it’s sort of sitting down and reaching for your toes, things like that. Then with dynamic flexibility work, or dynamic stretching, which would be lifting your knees to your chest, kicking your foot upwards, you know as in a rocket- touchstyle, like that, going down into a long lunge and then standing back up. So then, what you’re doing is you’re putting your muscle through a full range of movement. Or you’re enduring through a full range of movement, but you’re using movement, rather than being in a static position.
Giles : So, those are really the two main ones. Ballistic stretching is very similar to going into static stretch positions. So you’re putting the muscle into a lengthened position. But instead of holding it there, you bounce against it.
Kevin: Okay. Is that bad for you?
Giles : If you are not experienced, it is potentially bad, I feel.
Giles : And this is where I have to make a distinction between the ballistic stretching and the dynamic. Because the dynamic sounds very much like the same thing but it’s not. It’s not going into a lengthened position and just bouncing as hard as you can. It’s swinging your leg up in a controlled way, and gradually going further and Or, stepping forward into a long lunge and gradually sinking deeper and deeper.
Kevin: Right. I think one of the biggest challenges with stretching and exercise – and I know as a fitness professional, I get it too – is, when do I stretch, how do I stretch, which stretching works, does ballistic or dynamic or static stretching work?
What does your “Five-minute Flexibility”, I mean, first of all, how can people, how can you convey to people to believe that “Five-minute Flexibility” works? And then, how does it work?
Giles : Okay, “Five-minute Flexibility”, the book itself actually doesn’t include any stretches.
Giles : I purposely left them out, not because I don’t believe there’s a place for stretching. I do, I believe it’s part of recuperation and restoration. So that is long, gentle periods of static stretching in between heavy workouts, or even after a heavy workout. And that’s your charge to get in touch
with your body to learn to release the muscle, but in a very controlled way to focus on your breathing.
And my big thing is in reconnecting with your body. People have become disconnected from their bodies in modern life. What my book includes is quick releases. So a lot of these, they border more closely on physical therapy techniques,
Kevin: Mm hmm.
Giles : On acu-pressure techniques, and shiatsu, and different systems like that, bodyworks systems where you can hit a certain spot, on the foot for example, and it releases your hamstrings and your lower back.
Giles : And automatically you’ll gain, if so as you would try to bend over and try to touch your toes, if you were to massage the inner arch on your foot, and run your fingers backwards and forward, or I personally use these small plastic balls, and run them backwards and forward along that surface of the foot quite firmly for a minute. And then you were to go down and try to touch your toes again,
guaranteed you’re going to gain at least two or three inches. So, I focus on those quick release points, and there’s numerous ones throughout the body, which I touch on. I also focus on how to use your breath, to release the muscle tension.
Kevin: Mm hmm.
Giles : And exhale is to let go. And so you know, to breathe out, to exhale as to let go. And so it’s all about learning how to breathe, to builds up tension in your body. When you exhale, it lets go of tension. So it’s learning how to do that and direct that to various points of the body. It’s also learning how your mind controls your muscle.
And how we can use simple visualization drills, or simple verbal drills where we talk to ourselves in a certain way, which will automatically improve your flexibility. Just for example, if you were to say to yourself, “I feel tight today.” You’re going to be tight today.
You’re telling your body, “I feel tight today.”. As soon as you switch back, for ideology, and you start saying something fun like, “I feel loose as a goose! Fast and flexible! Loose as a goose!”.
Giles : Change your tonality and it automatically changes your physiology. You can feel it starting straight away.
Giles : So, we’ll use things like that as well. So the dynamic warm-up routines are sequences of flowing movements. And a lot of them are taken from Chinese qigong, and similar systems to that. And there maybe flowing sparrow movements. But they’re very simple to do, but they open up the joints, they re-align the body, they release tension from the muscle, they get the blood flowing.
So, I encourage people to do this five-minute routine before a workout. You’ll find your energy level shoot up straight away. And you’ll feel much looser.
Then you’ll have your exercise session, and then afterwards you can hit a couple of points again to help release more muscle tension, or then if you want to you can go into a small static routine. So that’s the general structure.