I've noticed that my flexibility, which is pretty good, varies throughout the company's season. Why does this happen, and what can I do about it?
—Jillian, Brooklyn, NY
Several factors affect flexibility. A busy dance season can lead to tighter muscles due to fatigue. In this case, restorative therapies like weekly massages, sufficient sleep and intermittent breaks during the day can help. Overstretching also causes stiffness by tearing muscle fibers. If you're less limber the day after some strenuous stretching, let your body recover by doing gentle stretches with a smaller range of motion. Finally, female hormones have a subtle effect on range of motion. Women often become more supple when estrogen peaks right before their period.
To stay flexible throughout the season, engage in a regular stretching routine: After you warm up and during your cool down, lengthen each muscle group for 20 seconds, while keeping the rest of your body stable. It's not about how hard you stretch but how often you do it that helps you stay limber.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.