Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge – Week 1: Hamstrings & Calves

The brand new 12 Minute Athlete Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge is here! If you missed the introduction post where we talked about the importance of flexibility and how to incorporate stretching exercises into your workout routine, make sure to check it out here

Throughout the flexibility challenge, we’ll be focusing on one or two muscle groups each week. We’ll talk about why these areas of your body get tight in the first place, why you should be working on loosening them up, and also show you some of the best stretches that help you to increase your flexibility and get bendy.

Do these stretches any time after your workout. To warm up before your workout, use dynamic movements like the ones here and here.

For Week One of the challenge, our focus will be working on our hamstrings and calves. 

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The Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge Is Here!

July is nearly here, which means that it’s time for another 6 Week Challenge! This summer, we’ll be focusing on improving our flexibility. Let’s get bendy!

If you’ve always given priority to your workouts and mostly avoided any form of focused stretching, I can completely relate. As athletes, we all want to become as strong as possible and kick butt in our workouts, PR our 100 Burpee Challenge times, and bust out handstands, pull ups, and other cool skills. No wonder that stretching often takes the backseat to our workout routine.

Because we’re all pressed for time, we tend to think that we’re good as long as we get our workout done, right?

…Wrong. Here’s why you should start finally paying attention to your flexibility and join us in the Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge this summer:

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Why You Might Be Overtraining (And How to Recover Quickly)

If you love to work out a lot, there may be times that you go a little too hard and forget to pay attention to your body.

You may have been feeling super strong, then all of a sudden, you feel exhausted, have low energy, and want to skip your workouts. Did you overtrain?

We’ve talked about how to read signs that may tell you that you’re overtraining and what to do if you need to cut back on exercising. But what do you do when you’ve gone further than just being a little bit tired and when just a few rest days don’t fix the issue?

If you did happen to overtrain, there are two major things that will help you to get back to your workout routine: rest and food.

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5 Super Simple Ways to Boost Workout Recovery


Back in the days when my workouts consisted of nothing but going for a three mile jog three times a week or so, I never had much of a problem recovering.

Sure, my legs would be a little tired afterwards, but those jogs were so spread out and so low in intensity that recovering afterwards was never much of a problem.

Yet when my slow jogs eventually turned into HIIT workouts and bodyweight skill practice, I had a harder and harder time recovering after my workouts. I’d either be so tired afterwards that I wouldn’t want to do anything for the rest of the day, or be so sore that I had trouble even walking up the stairs (a serious problem when you commute via New York subway).

When this first started happening, I’ll admit that I thought it was a good thing. I figured if I was that fatigued and sore from my workout, I must have worked really hard, which meant I would get really good results.

But as I got more interested in training like an athlete and realized I wanted to be able to work out more regularly (rather than be so sore I had to wait days in between workouts) both because I enjoyed it and because of the mental and physical benefits I got from working out, my lack of recovery started to become more of an issue.

Luckily, I’ve learned a lot since those days and now recover much faster, which helps me keep working towards my goals and doing fun things like going on hikes, bike rides around the city, or trying new sports or activities outside of my workouts without feeling completely exhausted.

In partnership with SYMYX ELEVATE, a ready-to-drink supplement at Target (more below), here are 5 of the easiest ways to help you boost workout recovery:

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Open Up Your Shoulders: 5 Stretches You Can Do With a Broomstick


We’ve been doing a lot of handstands around here lately and if you’re anything like me, your shoulders are feeling super tight as a result.

Handstands and other exercises like push ups, planks, and pull ups put a ton of pressure on your shoulders, and keeping your shoulders mobile and flexible is super important to help you maintain good form and prevent injuries.

Unsurprisingly, open shoulders are also important for good posture, so if you don’t want to appear hunched over, make sure to keep your shoulders nice and flexible!

We’ve already touched on warming up the wrists during our Handstand Challenge, and now it’s time to focus on the shoulders.

You can do the following exercises with a PVC pipe or a pilates stick, but the easiest thing to use is a simple broomstick. Everyone has one at home, so put it to good use!

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5 Foam Roller Exercises You Should Be Doing Regularly

It’s been a while since we’ve addressed anything recovery-related here on 12 Minute Athlete—but recovery is an incredibly important piece of meeting any athletic or weight loss-based goals.

And really, taking at least one rest day a week, getting adequate sleep, stretching regularly, and fueling your body right is just as important as working out on a consistent basis.

One of the things I consider to be an integral part of the recovery process is foam rolling. Foam rollers cost all of $10-$20 on Amazon or any sporting goods store, but they can make a huge difference in the level of soreness you experience, prevent injuries, and can even help with your workout performance.

And you don’t even have to spend a lot of time using it to get results. Even foam rolling just a few times a week for 5-10 minutes at a time will really help your body perform at its peak level, especially if you’re prone to minor injuries like shin splints or overly sore muscles.

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The 5 Best Stretches for Tight Hamstrings

One of the things that holds a lot of people back from doing moves like L-sits and pistols actually has nothing to do with strength. Instead, it has to do with a lack of hamstring flexibility.

When your hamstrings (the back of your legs) are tight, they may not only stop you from doing these types of fun and advanced exercises, they can also cause unnecessary pain and even injuries. That’s why working on your hamstring flexibility and foam rolling on a regular basis is so important—especially if you work out a lot like I do.

If you hate and/or procrastinate stretching on a regular basis, trust me, I understand. Stretching is not something I look forward to, partly because it just plain hurts! But, it’s incredibly important to do to keep your muscles healthy and injury-free, and will definitely help you improve at certain exercises as well.

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Are Cool Downs Really Necessary?


If you’re like me, you’ve probably been told for most of your life (especially if you were a high school athlete) that you need to cool down after you exercise.

I specifically remember being told this after my soccer games as a teenager or even in P.E. after running sprints. My coach told me I could not sit down, no matter what—even though all I wanted to do was lie there in a heap of sweat and exhaustion.

Later on, when I studied for my personal training certification, I quickly realized there was a general consensus among trainers about how to properly go about working out: a 10-minute or so warmup, a 45-minute-ish workout, and a 5-10 minute cool down. Now don’t get me started on the warmup/workout time (I’ll save those for another post)—today I just want to focus on the cool down, and whether this consensus is actual science that you need to follow.

So what happens when you skip the cool down completely after your workout (as many of us no doubt do)? And are cool downs really necessary?

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5 Stretches You Should Be Doing on a Regular Basis


Although I rarely miss a workout, I’ve never been very good about ensuring I give my body the proper recovery it needs to bounce back after all my hard work.

Because even though I talk a lot about taking rest days, foam rolling, and not overtraining, mobility and recovery have been some of the hardest habits for me to build (and I know I’m not alone here). After all, recovery is boring. Sitting around with a foam roller for 30 minutes? I’d rather do a workout in half that time any day.

And when it comes to stretching, I’ve been even worse. I’ll tell myself I’ll stretch while watching TV at night, but when attempting to do this the other night I realized the main reason I rarely do it: stretching hurts!

I’m not talking about half-ass, wimpy stretching. I mean real stretching. Getting deep into those muscles so that you feel like you want to scream or cry or throw up or something similar.

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12 Really Cool Gift Ideas for Fitness Junkies


If you’re looking for some fitness-related gifts for your favorite people this holiday season, I’ve got you covered.

Below are 12 of my favorite fitness items ever, perfect for anyone wanting to ditch their gym membership or just be able to work out at home whenever they want. Every single item listed below (in no particular order) is something I personally use and love. And they’re also all an awesome value for the cost!

Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links, which means I make a very small commission if you decide to buy from them. 12 Minute Athlete is reader supported, so thank you!

Here are 12 awesome gift ideas for fitness junkies this holiday season:

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