Well, that's a good question, and we get it a lot!
The timeline for a split is very personal because everyone's body is different. There are several factors though that can affect the progress of your flexibility.
Genetics is one element that comes into play in regards to a person’s flexibility. Dr. Paul Weitzel, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at New England Baptist Hospital, says, "There clearly is a genetic component to everyone's fundamental flexibility, but within that, you can have a range of improving your flexibility."1 So don't give up! Genetics can make achieving your flexibility goals harder, but it won't prevent you from improving.
Your lifestyle plays a significant role in your journey to attain added flexibility. Those who sit all day will probably struggle with achieving deeper splits as opposed to those who move, dance, or even walk daily. But there is hope! If you are stuck at the office, try to squeeze in a few short stretching sessions during the day. There is a lot you can do without leaving your desk and without generating too much attention from your colleagues.
StretchitAir is a great app that will help you keep moving with 6-7 minute stretching routines. Initially, it was created for travelers as an exercise program for stretching during flights, but all seated stretching sequences can be performed at the desk as well. You won't get your splits by merely stretching a few minutes a day, but these short sessions will definitely keep your body active and help you progress faster.
Generally speaking, those who have prior experience in stretching are likely to regain flexibility faster than those who never stretched before and start from zero. Muscle memory and experience in proper alignment help your body to relax its nervous system and get deeper into your stretches. Studies have shown that improvements in flexibility are not necessarily structural changes in your body's muscles or tendons, but rather an increased stretch tolerance caused by adaptations in our nervous system. So being able to do a split as a kid is likely to help you progress faster later in life.
The best approach to getting your splits is to be consistent with your training. We recommend starting with at least two 30 min classes a week and giving your body 2-3 days to recover between sessions. See how it goes for you and adjust the regularity and class length accordingly. If you wish to get your goal sooner, try STRETCHIT Front Splits or Middle Split Challenge. STRETCHIT Challenges are training programs focused on achieving your flexibility goals quickly and safely.
Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition has an effect on how your body moves and functions, and that absolutely extends to your flexibility training. You are what you eat, and what we put into our bodies is either energizing, healing, and nourishing—or can contribute to feeling sluggish, stiff, and unmotivated. Choose healthy, anti-inflammatory foods, support the health of your connective tissue health, and stay hydrated.
Take care of your body. If you're itching to move or your body is feeling particularly sore, it can be helpful to do some gentle active recovery like foam rolling, a long walk, or another low-intensity activity like swimming. Keep moving and do some light stretching on your off days so that when you do get into an intense training session, it's not a total shock to your body. Get a massage. Schedule an acupuncture session. Treat yourself with an Epsom salt bath. You are asking a lot of your body when you train, so be sure to compensate with self-care. Listen to your body and be smart about how you're treating yourself.
So, we really don't have a good answer to exactly how long it will take you to achieve a split. It may take a week, a year (or two), but as long as you're moving in the right direction and you're consistent with your flexibility training, you can be sure that you're improving. Just know that your flexibility goals will come and you'll get your splits eventually!
1How much can you really increase your muscle flexibility ....