I’ve been sailing across the Pacific for just over a week now, puttering along at about 20 mph on a course that’s roughly following the Tropic of Cancer. At this rate, it will take nearly three weeks to cover the approximate 8,000 miles and reach Hong Kong. It is the archetypical slow boat to China.
When you’re this far out at sea, you can’t help contemplating water—and not just what gets mixed with your scotch. This journey will take me one-third of the way around the globe and, if I understood our Norwegian captain correctly during this morning’s announcements, there are three miles of water beneath our keel. (Either that, or for dinner tonight he’s recommending the watercress salad and veal.)
Water is the foundation of life, the basis of our bodies and, for our purposes here, the key to flexibility. But don’t take my word for it; do a simple experiment.
Drink 101 ounces of water or fluid (if you’re an active man) or 74 ounces (if you’re an active woman) over a 24-hour period. These are recommendations from the Mayo Clinic, and they will fully hydrate you. The next day, take note of how you feel when you get up (are you as creaky?), when you exercise (can you go longer and harder?), and when evening arrives (are you as tired?)
I’m willing to wager that you’ll experience a noticeable transformation. Indeed, if you’re looking for a quick fix for just about anything that ails you, water is it. And that goes for flexibility as well.
Both my advisors, physical therapist Sue Falsone and stretching expert Ann Frederick, have their hands on people more often than a TSA screener. And they can both instantly tell when someone is dehydrated.
“The fascia layer is supposed to glide across the muscular layer,” explains Frederick, “but when the fascia tissue is dehydrated it sort of sticks. At times, you can even feel a crunchiness under your fingers and hear a cracking or popping sound.”
If this sounds like the orchestra you live with, then all you may need to put your body in tune is more water. “It’s the single biggest factor to increasing flexibility from something you can take into your system,” says Frederick. “Forget foods, forget supplements; water is it.”
Staying well hydrated also helps flush toxins from the body, says Falsone. When you’re stretching and twisting muscles and tissue, she says you’re squeezing out impurities that have accumulated in them from foods and the environment. To better understand this process, think of the dishrag you use to mop the sink (well, that your mom uses to mop the sink). You can wring it out until your wrists ache, and it still won’t be germ-free. But run some water through, and it’ll soon be clean. So when you stretch, don’t forget to flush.
Afloat on this boat, I vow to do a better job of buoying my body.
Abbott Nutrition strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program and perform exercises under the supervision of a certified fitness trainer or conditioning coach. The effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition should be determined by your health care professional. The suggestions here are in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.