FLEXIBILITY TRAINING DVD Gain strength, flexibility and stability

One of the last things I think about in my workout routine is stretching. I do a little before and after exercise, but I don't put a lot of thought or time into it. I've only started stretching in the last few years, after a few injuries made it necessary. It's something I endure because I have to, not something I look forward to.

I'm always hearing people talk about stretching and how great it feels and how it reduces stress, yada yada yada. I'd rather jump on the bike, go for a run or do something active for stress reduction -- stretching doesn't sound quite as appealing.

There's also that issue of time -- if flexibility isn't really a priority and, like most people, you already have a busy schedule -- how do you squeeze something else into the mix?

I've tried some yoga and stretching videos at home, but ended up with neck and back pain, pretty much the opposite of what I expected. While I'd push myself through the poses, I felt everything but relaxed. People kept telling me "you have to go to a class so an instructor can help you with the poses," etc. But I'm just not that motivated. I'd rather do it at home and keep things simple.

Flexibility made simple

Thanks to Brian Dorfman's Flexibility Training DVD, I found a way to stay home and incorporate stretching and flexibility into my weekly routine easily.

The reasoning behind Dorfman's DVD isn't to become more flexible, but to help you recover more effectively and perform better in the sports you love. Finally, someone who understands I don't want to stretch simply for stretching's sake -- but to improve my cycling or running performance.

Nine-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser says Dorfman's treatment program saved her career, and American mile record holder Steve Scott credits Dorfman's program with being able to return to world-class form when he was facing the end of his career. The testimonials on Dorfman's Web site aren't just limited to professional athletes, but from recreational and non-athletes as well, and in all cases they praise his routine for allowing them to resume activities that they had stopped because of pain and injury.

Saving careers, healing injuries, pain relief ... these are some pretty big claims. And it's for a stretching routine that's less than 25 minutes.

Putting it to the test

Before I tried the routine, I watched it so I'd know what to expect. It's 22 minutes and after it ended, I thought to myself, "is that it?" Don't get me wrong -- less time is a good thing. The faster I can get this stretching stuff over with, the better.

The routine is dynamic -- you'll move from one position to another and then stay in a position for a stretch. The movement between stretches warms up the muscle, and as you stay in a position it stretches the muscle. As you move, you're prompted when to inhale and exhale, so you know how to breathe through the moves. Being a complete novice, this was very helpful for me.

As you perform each move, Dorfman reminds you to "think about expanding your ribs as you inhale," or "feel yourself go deeper into the pose on the exhale," so you get the most from the poses.

The pace is realistic -- not too fast to follow. He suggests pausing a few times during the sequence to allow for greater stretching where it's needed, and this is important. If your hamstrings are tight, then pause the DVD on the hamstring stretch and spend some more time here. Pausing allows you to customize the stretching to your own needs.

According to Dorfman, if you find a stretch more challenging, this is probably where you should pause the DVD and take a little more time.

Keep in mind, Dorfman is amazingly flexible and duplicating his level of flexibility through the routine the first time around (or maybe even the hundredth time) isn't possible, but following the stretches is easy. The more I went through the routine, the smoother my moves became and the more comfortable I felt in the poses.

When you go through the routine, it feels good but it's not earth-shattering. However, when you're done, you'll notice you feel good; energized and relaxed.

The thinking behind this flexibility DVD

This series of stretches is geared specifically to people who are tight and not particularly flexible -- that pretty much covers most athletes. And the whole point of the DVD was to design an easy routine that covered the muscles that are most commonly used in endurance sports. So the stretching sequence targets the areas that tend to become problem areas, based on Dorfman's 20-plus years of work with athletes.

"The whole point of stretching is to recover -- you should approach it with ease. And stretching counters the athletic piece. The emphasis is on moving in a way that's comfortable," Dorfman says. "Your success in sports is based on how long you're able to stay comfortable; how long you're able to relax when things are uncomfortable."

So, it's much more than just stretching the muscles, it's about quality training, fluid movement, relaxation and strengthening the respiratory system. To put it simply, by performing the stretches, you're learning to relax, move more comfortably and allowing your muscles to recover. And you can do it in a ridiculously short time.

In that light, this stretching thing sounds pretty good.

Wow, it does work

I practiced this routine three times a week as suggested and noticed that it actually does make a difference. And because it's just 22 minutes, trying to fit it in isn't an issue. No matter how busy you are, you can squeeze this in three times a week.

I do aerobic exercise in the morning, so for me, this works best as an evening routine. When I get home from work, I'm usually a little wound up, so this is a perfect way for me to de-stress from the day, stretch out my muscles from both the morning workout and a day of sitting at my desk. I actually look forward to it because it's so quick and no matter how I feel before, I feel better -- more relaxed -- when I've finished.

The mental effect from the routine is great, but the physical benefits are even better. I typically don't take days off from exercise, so my muscles are usually a little sore and stiff. I have chronic neck pain, and to manage it I visit the chiropractor several times a week. Since I've been doing the routine, my muscles are less sore and my chiropractic adjustments haven't been as significant. Dorfman says the routine helps muscles recover more effectively, and I've certainly found this to be the case.

The repetitive action of endurance sports give muscles and joints a beating, so focusing on recovery is just as important as training. This DVD makes it easy to do that. It's an approachable and simple sequence that anyone can incorporate into their training. It's hard to believe that something so easy to do can have such a positive effect, but it does.

A background you can trust

Dorfman holds a BS in kinesiology from UCLA and is certified in yoga therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, massage therapy and cranio-sacral therapy and other forms of holistic medicine. He has 25 years of experience in helping people heal. Besides endorsements from Newby-Fraser, Scott and other world-class athletes, you'll notice the testimonials on his Web site are people from all walks of life.

No matter who you are, you'll benefit from this stretching schedule. Whether it's the mental relaxation you'll get from breathing and stretching, relief from sore or stiff muscles, or better recovery for your next workout, you'll walk away feeling better.

The Flexibility Training VHS tape sells for $22, while the DVD goes for $25. For complete details, visit www.briandorfman.com.

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