First, a little background:
This is my seventh year as an Essentrics instructor, and my fifteenth year - yes, I said 15 - of following its television version, Classical Stretch. The TV episodes are only 22 minutes in length - 22 minutes to feel great, unlock tight muscles, and relieve joint pain. That’s a daily habit that wasn’t too hard for me to adopt. Even when I take breaks from teaching Essentrics classes, I still do my own daily workout at home.
This summer, my teenagers joined a local fitness club. The facility has a teen fitness program that allows them free access for July and August. While my son had workout buddies, my daughter was going to be on her own. So she asked me to join with her. I promptly agreed: daily exercise is an important habit for everyone, and if spending money on a gym membership would keep my daughter physically active, I was willing to pay for the summer months.
During our first workout at the gym, I was struck by how many people had less-than-optimal posture, poor form during their workouts, and perpetually contracted muscles which inevitably leads to joint compression - aka pain! Were these people aware that only 22 minutes of dynamic stretching could improve their gym experience? Don’t worry - I resisted the urge to preach the gospel according to Essentrics. But it got me thinking: what would happen if I stopped my daily Essentrics workout and only did a gym-based workout?
The American College of Sports Medicine defines 3 fitness components on which individuals can train for optimal health: cardiorespiratory training, resistance training, and flexibility training:
Notice anything about this table? I’ll give you a hint - I highlighted it in yellow. Flexibility training - aka stretching - is recommended daily or almost daily for every population. So, how many people actually follow these recommendations? Judging from the people I was seeing at the gym, I think it’s fair to say “not many”. Since I’ve never been into resistance training, and I was now doing it 3-4 days per week with my daughter, I wondered how my body would fare if I eliminated the flexibility training from my exercise repertoire. Well, I’m a research nerd at heart, so the only logical solution was to run an experiment. Sample size = 1. It’s called a case study, people. I’ve spent enough of my life in the world of research to know the limitations of a single case study, so don’t worry, it’s not being submitted to a peer-reviewed publication.
So, in early July, I stopped doing Essentrics and only did cardio and resistance training workouts. What happened to my body with this change in workouts? Well, a lot. Every injury I’ve ever had seemed to resurface - plantar fasciitis in one foot, torn calf muscle in the other leg, severe big toe pain, recurring shoulder pain. When I got out of bed in the morning, I couldn’t put my heel on the ground and I had to walk down the stairs sideways. It reminded me of my pre-Essentrics life and what drove me to daily practice of this program in the first place.
I realized I couldn’t continue this experiment on my return to Ottawa. This was a situation where the science was hurting the test subject. I’m still doing cardio and resistance training workouts with my daughter, but first I do my own Essentrics workout at home. For me, it improves my gym workout because I know I’m still rebalancing my body on my own time.
Bottom line, Essentrics can and should be a daily habit. Not just for me - for everyone. Daily habits make life more manageable. And Essentrics is a tool for better living.
What are your daily habits? Do you:
These are all great daily habits - do you remember a time when you didn’t do them? Your daily habits are just that: things you do every day without even thinking about it.
American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 4th ed. (2014) Publishers: Wolters Kluwer; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.