Q&A with Allison, your StretchIt instructor
You’ve seen her on screen as you sweat and stretch your way through every class from Bendy Back to Middle Splits. Now, it’s time to hear her advice on training and how she created these classes to help you achieve your dreamiest of flexibility goals.
Meet Allison Wardwell: a master flexibility trainer, dance and fitness educator, performer, and innovator. She’s the genius behind StretchIt’s expert programming and her approach to mind-body movement always leaves us inspired to hit the mat.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Allison’s experience with fitness and dance includes over 20 years of movement study. Her deep knowledge of the body informs her passion for bringing her students the best training methods available. She has taught internationally and designed curriculum for flexibility teacher training programs, reaching students all over the world. With a B.F.A. in Dance from The University of Texas and her M.A. in Dance Education from New York University, Allison has dedicated her life to being an educator.
Allison’s flexibility classes are a fusion of various disciplines and technique – from yoga to dance to contortion to fitness. For StretchIt, Allison strives to empower her students while creating an environment that is open, warm, and full of progress. Her classes are accessible and aim to reach each student at their individual level. She designed the StretchIt program to offer flexibility training for every level and every goal.
We asked Allison questions on stretching, her training philosophy, and what inspires her to create such amazing classes. We also asked her some of your frequently asked questions, so read on to learn more!
Describe StretchIt classes in 5 adjectives.
Balanced. Accessible. Goal-oriented. Creative. Satisfying.
What experiences shaped how you designed the classes for StretchIt?
The knowledge tapped for creating the StretchIt curriculum comes from a variety of experiences and inspirations – my background as a student and professional mover, my tenure as an instructor of a variety of disciplines, and my parents!
Growing up as a ballet dancer, flexibility was always important. I was always naturally flexible, and in ballet that was “my thing”. As I later progressed into contemporary dance, yoga, contortion, and aerial arts, I was really able to tap into my max flexy potential. Surrounded by excellent movement instructors, contortion coaches, and other professionals in the field, I gained enormous insight into what works for my body, how to push it, how to protect it, and ultimately how to train to be my best bendy self.
On the other side, as an instructor, I quickly learned that what works for my body, doesn’t always work for other bodies. Throughout my teaching career and pedagogical education, I acquired new tools, experiences, and knowledge that has helped me reach each student at their individual skill level. I found that creating content that is accessible to different bodies and skill levels is overwhelmingly important for students’ success.
Lastly, I would say my parents were definitely an inspiration for the StretchIt classes. I am always encouraging them to stretch and try to coach them when we’re together. They're pretty active, but as people age, mobility tends to decrease. I knew they (and others in a similar population) would benefit from StretchIt, so I kept them in my mind when generating material. If they can do it, anyone can! (Sorry Mom and Dad ;) )
Let’s get down to the basics. Can you explain stretching?
To put it simply, stretching is moving two fixed points away from one another. In the body that looks like increasing joint range of motion or mobility. Mobility is the building block for all movement modalities, whether it’s dance or sports or acrobatics. In fact, many of the stretches and exercises in StretchIt are moves that you’ve probably done before such as, ‘Downward Dog,’ which comes from yoga, or ‘Runner’s Lunge,’ which is common in athletics. Stretching can be active, passive, dynamic, static, etc. Every modality has their method, which is why we try and draw from as many as possible in StretchIt, bringing you maximum variety for maximum results!
What’s your advice for people that are having a hard time starting or are feeling like they’re too old or too inflexible to begin?
That you’re not alone. That anything is possible. And that SOMETHING is always, ALWAYS, always better than NOTHING. If you feel you're not flexible enough to start stretching, well…there’s only one cure for that—start stretching! Starting is the hardest part, but StretchIt makes it so easy. Start with just 15 minutes a day, and your body will start craving more movement. Let go of the emotions and judgments standing in your way, and just dive in. Give yourself permission to not be perfect. Stretching is a process! With the way our world is today, it’s easy to feel at odds with or disconnected from your body, so we could all use a little reintroduction to remind ourselves of what’s possible. I promise that once you get moving, you’ll be amazed at what your body is capable of.
What’s your advice on building a balanced workout routine and how to avoid overtraining?
Fatigue, regression, pain, injury, weakness--we’ve all been there. Myself included. The most important thing I’ve found with building a smart workout routine is to always include a proper warm-up, a proper cool down, and alternate between intense and light training in-between. You want to address the whole body so you’re not overusing or wearing out one area one muscle group or joint (just like you would if you were weight-training). And you also want to couple static stretches (being still) with dynamic stretches (moving actively).
To avoid overtraining, be sure to give yourself time to recover. While it’s natural to get excited about your progress, it’s important to schedule days off too. Listen to your body. If you’re physically tired and aching constantly, it’s time for a breather. Take a bath, get a massage, or just take a day to do something different (a walk in the park, a salsa class, etc.). Ease in as you start—twice a week of training is just fine! As that feels good, and your body starts recovering more quickly, add another day of the week.
Bottom line is--don’t let your head rule your body. Ignore the intellectual “should’s”, and tap into the signals your body is giving you--it is often smarter than your mind!
"Once you get moving, you’ll be amazed at what your body is capable of.”
Do StretchIt classes follow a template? How did you design them?
The way I organized the classes for StretchIt is exactly how I plan my regular movement classes, whether it’s flexibility or dance or something else--I always start with the end goal and work backwards.
The StretchIt program was designed toward attaining specific goals, giving me the perfect map for creating targeted stretching programs for each. Basically, I took the given goals, broke them down into their essential elements, and found ways to mobilize, stretch, and strengthen the individual body parts necessary to achieve that end result. I then sequenced the generated material in a way that felt balanced and gave an experience of flow.
I attempted to incorporate as much variety in to the program as possible, which really stretched me (no pun intended!) and expanded my teaching vocabulary, as I explored new ideas and new movements. It made me reach past what I know and get creative with tools I have used for years. Thanks, StretchIt!
There are students all over the world taking your classes each and every day. Are there any words you'd like to get out to them?
I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that this program is reaching so many people. It makes me so happy to see everyone’s comments and see each person’s progress, it really is amazing! I want to reach out and give everyone a high five and a pat-on-the-back, for doing something so good for your body, for trying something new, and for setting and achieving personal goals. It’s my mission to help people tune into their bodies and connect with themselves, and it’s wonderful to see StretchIt is making that difference for people. You ALL are so inspiring!! Keep doing you!
Thank you, Allison! From all the StretchIt students out there ☺
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