Be the best you can be!

Why even bother to be the best you can be? Is it worth it or just too hard?

Below are five reasons why you should:

1. There is no peace when you don’t
As Emerson so eloquently stated ‘a man is relieved and gay when he has done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace’.

How do you feel when you have given a half hearted effort at something, or when you have done less than what you are capable? Does it bring you peace? Sometimes you can feel satisfied, but if done too often it can leave an uneasy feeling inside. You can be left feeling anxious and wondering what might have been.

We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility. -Albert Einstein

2. To give less is to sacrifice the gift
You have been given the gift of life. You have physical, spiritual and intellectual gifts that are totally unique to you. It is only you that can make them come alive. It is only by giving your best that they can be developed.

Without that commitment those gifts will be sacrificed to a potential that is unknown and the world will miss out on what you have to offer.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. -Howard Thurman

3. It is inspiring
Think of why we love to watch Olympic athletes. It is because they are the very best in the world at what they do. They are pushing their bodies to their physical limit and giving their all. They love what they do and are passionate about it. It is not a dry logic that drives them but a feeling deep inside. A dream. A desire to win. They are inspired to be the best they can. And we love to watch them because we get some of that feeling too. We can be moved to try a bit harder, and to do a bit more in our life. Because we know that it is in the stretching to be more that we can experience the exhilaration of the game in sport and life.

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.  -Baruch Spinoza

4. Get into the zone – feel the flow
In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s classic work on happiness where he studied great artists, athletes and other professionals, he discovered a peak state that he termed ‘flow’. He describes the experience of joy, creativity, exhilaration and timelessness that occurred to these people in this state. You can experience this state doing any task. It is only necessary to ensure that for your current skill level it is not too easy or you will be bored, and also not too difficult or you will be overwhelmed. By striking the right balance you can be in the ‘flow’ – a feeling of bliss and transcendence where movement becomes effortless. The key to maintaining this state is to continue to raise the difficulty of the task as you get better.

Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment. -Oprah Winfrey

5. Avoid fear and the comfort zone
What happens when you don’t push yourself and don’t strive for more? You get comfortable. You get so good at what you do that it becomes easy and you get bored. The challenge is gone. If we repeat this too often it becomes a habit. We can then prefer the safety of the easy and known. And bit by bit we can begin to fear the idea of leaving this place of ease and comfort. Then more fear can set in – we can fear losing, we can fear being embarrassed. So we no longer try. We stop taking risks. We feel unfulfilled being less than we know we are. But we can not help it. We are stuck. We have found ourselves in a rut – a grave with the ends kicked out.

The roots of true achievement lie in the will to become the best that you can become. -Harold Taylor

Make sure you check back for part two in our series of why you should be the best you can be!

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Healing through flexibility

In the final post of our assessment series, we will describe how to assess your flexibility. When most people think of fitness, they think of training their cardiovascular system and muscular strength, but they often forget about the importance of improving flexibility and mobility.

Flexibility training helps to decrease the chance of muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions and overuse injuries. It should be a key component of all training programs. There are a number of tests you can perform to measure your upper and lower body flexibility.

Sit and Reach Test:
The sit and reach test measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstring muscles.  This test is perhaps the most important flexibility test, as tightness in the lower back and hamstrings can help determine a person’s risk for future muscle pain and injury.

To perform this test, remove your shoes and sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place the soles of your feet flat against a box with a height of about 30 centimetres. Your knees should be locked and pressed down into the floor. With your palms facing downwards and your hands on top of each other, reach forwards as far as possible. Hold the final position for one to two seconds while an assistant measures the distance to your toes (a negative measurement) or past your toes (a positive measurement). Use the best score of three attempts.

The score is recorded to the nearest centimetre as the distance reached by the hand. The table below assumes the level of the feet is the zero mark.

  Men (cm) Women (cm)
Excellent >17 >21
Good 6 to 16 11 to 20
Average 0 to 5 1 to 10
Fair -8 to -1 -7 to 0
Poor <-9 <-8

Shoulder Flexibility Test:
This test measures the flexibility of the shoulder joint, which is important for injury prevention in every day life as well as sports such as swimming and tennis. To perform the test, you will need either a towel or a stick. Hold the towel/stick with both hands wide apart and palms facing downwards. Lift the towel/stick over your head and behind your back, keeping the tension on the object throughout.

Continue repeating the test, moving the hands closer and closer together each time until the movement can no longer be completed. Measure the distance between your hands for your final successful attempt, and aim to reduce the measurement over time.

Scratch Test:
This test measures the shoulder joint’s range of motion.  To perform the assessment, stand with one hand behind the head and over the shoulder. Reach that hand as far down the middle of your back as possible, with your fingers pointing downwards. With the other hand, reach behind your back with your palm facing upward and reach upwards as far as possible attempting to touch or overlap the fingers of both hands.

If your fingers overlap, you have excellent shoulder flexibility. If your fingers can touch, that is considered ‘good’. An ‘average’ score is when your fingers are less than five centimetres apart, and anything more than that is considered poor.

To improve your flexibility, you must regularly stretch all the major muscle groups. Consider those muscles which are constantly in a shortened stage because of our lifestyles – a common example is the hip flexors, which are contracted when we sit for prolonged periods each day. Because the muscle is consistently short and moves in a pattern different from its intended function, inelastic connective tissue will form along this altered pattern and reduce the ability of the muscle to extend and move in its proper manner. Flexibility training is therefore essential to restore the normal extensibility of the muscle.

Posture is also an important part of movement and flexibility. Proper postural alignment allows optimum neuromuscular efficiency, which allows you to increase your strength and cardiovascular fitness.  Without this proper postural alignment, your body will begin to degenerate as muscular imbalances present themselves.

Muscular imbalances can be caused by a number of factors including postural stress, emotional duress, repetitive movement, cumulative trauma, poor training technique, lack of core strength and lack of neuromuscular control.

By ensuring each exercise session works on mobility at the start of the workout through dynamic stretches, and flexibility at the end of the session with static stretches, you will minimise the number of muscular imbalances and general tightness you suffer from.