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Stretching isn’t about being able to do splits. It’s about avoiding chronic and/or acute pain.

 Skeletal muscles can do only one thing -- contract. Well, relax too, but that’s just part of the one thing. Every muscle attaches at each end to a different bone, across a joint. A muscle cell, a fiber, sort of reels one end of itself in toward the other, the opposite of a rubberband -- it’s a sort of hand over hand tug-of-war process, as if two caterpillars met head to head and then walked along each other’s belly. Confusing, eh? Point is, the ends get closer together.

 We get stiff, inflexible, muscle bound, stooped, when muscles reset themselves into a contracted position, so that too-short becomes the new norm. Spend 8 hours working at a desk, or 12 hours watching a Twilight Zone marathon, or 16 hours playing, um, Tetris, and you’re teaching your hamstrings that short is the healthy way to be. When we try to pull them out again into a longer, healthier full-range position -- what we’d call stretched but which is really just relaxed--this is perceived as an abnormal stress on a joint, perhaps even dangerous. Joints are higher than muscles on your brain’s list of things to protect, so there is automatic resistance to any stretch beyond the habitual. And what you do for 8 hours straight, your body considers the norm.

That’s the stiffness -- a signal from your muscles to you that you’re getting dangerously ambitious, what with your bending over to tie your shoe like that. How dare you disrespect your body so flagrantly. Back off, sweet child, you’re flying too close to the sun. Stiffness. The reaction may be violent, in fact, if the danger seems grave, and the muscle reacts like a finger flinching from fire -- spasms, pulls, tears. Better a torn muscle than a damaged joint. Problem is, there was no danger. You just haven’t been doing your stretching, your relaxing. Your body is a domesticated animal: you may think it’s a fierce boar, but it’s a pig … that may be an unflattering analogy. You think it’s a wolf but it’s a dog, and it learns what you train it to do. Teach muscles to stay contracted, hour after hour, and they will obey, and enforce the lesson with stiffness. Or with rips. Or with atrophying rigidity.

 So. Functionality functions most functionally when fully elastic muscles operate joints that are properly aligned. Your body is in its groove. Lots of body parts can slip out of their groove. Slumped shoulders, drooping head and neck, pelvis tilted forward or back (which rounds or sways the lower back), knees and feet pointed out or in (duckfeet or pigeon toes).

 These are all significant problems, which may never actually cause pain for some lucky folks, but will always increase the risk of injury. Consider: if a rubber band is already fully stretched, and then pulled even more ... injury. Whereas: if a muscle-tendon unit has sufficient and healthy range of motion, a fall or blow need not over-stress it -- there’s enough give and take to avert trauma. Thus: we want to preserve and recover healthy flexibility as a matter of prudence and responsibility. We don’t stretch so we can show off our splits; we stretch so we don’t have debilitating pain come out of nowhere and ruin our lives and destroy our optimism and transform us into bitter joyless recluses just waiting for the onerous burden of life to finally, at long and agonizing last, pass.

 Ideal skeletal structure is symmetrical to such a degree that it can only be called elegant. Like Leonardo designed it. Brilliant, actually. The shoulder joints, hips, knees and soles are all equidistant, one from the next. Proper posture has ankles, knees, hips and (depending on body-type) shoulders all precisely parallel.

 From such a pinnacle, it’s all downhill. Splayed feet, which turns walking into a sort of skating.
 Only a moment’s thought will demonstrate the problem, the inordinate and chronic stress on the ankles. We don’t want to skate. We want to ski. And observe the knees -- pointing outward, which is what splays the feet. And the knees are just revealing the displacement of the hips. An obvious issue then, but not a simple one.

Again, slouching shoulders.
 The shoulder blades aren’t doing their job. The resulting pain need not be restricted to the logical places, neck and back. Pain migrates.

 The most common cause of posture-induced pain is a downward tilted pelvis.
 If everything is thrown out of balance, forced to realign, sacrificing proper function for simple balance, then muscles will of necessity be forced to do work they can but were not designed to do. Prime-movers become postural, and visa versa. It’s madness.

 The upward tilting pelvis looks as degenerative as it is. You’re old before your time.

And so on.   Listing

 … yawing
 … just ready to capsize, keel over, break in two and sink to the crab-scuttled floors of silent seas.

These oddities of posture are the virtually universal norm. All those computer games have twisted our bones as well as our minds, and souls.   Repent! With maintenance stretching, your bones don’t have a choice but to fall into healthy alignment. It’s not bogus. It’s excellent.
Seems like a smart thing to do.

Be excellent.

CrossFit Burbank
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