“Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse.” — George Sheehan
Recently, I pulled a muscle in my back, and each time my brain tries to order my torso to twist, bend or stretch, that muscle responds with a ruckus remonstrance. The pain, like little knives cutting and stabbing, makes most movement uncomfortable at best and impossible at worst.
When asked how it happened, I tell a harrowing story of working out with too must gusto after an extended period of idleness. The truth, however, is a bit scarier and even more embarrassing. I actually pulled my muscle removing my bra.
The scary part is that something like this can happen by doing something so simple, so common, and let’s be honest, so necessary. How could that be? Well it would seem that I have neglected to stretch, and as it turns out, flexibility — or the lack thereof — appears to be one of the single most important factors affecting our quality of life as we age.
According to my research, the pain and stiffness of aging begins as temporary tensions, and over time become learned habits. Over the years, we develop habitual ways of using our muscles to move and position ourselves. Poor posture and a lack of flexibility is often the result of limited stretching and improper body alignment. And when that happens, you wake up one day, try to take of your bra and almost paralyze yourself.
Margret Richard writes, “You have to lube your chassis to ensure a smooth ride. Regular stretching activates fluids in your joints, thereby reducing the wear-and-tear caused by friction. Increased water intake is also believed to contribute to increased mobility for tissues and joints that have become less supple, and research has shown that we can counterbalance the effects of aging so that your physiology is quite a bit younger than your chronology.”
I wish I had read that a while ago. My chassis is in need of some immediate lubing. So here is what I learned:
• The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm. You can do it after you work out or, as I plan on doing, after a warm bath or shower.
• Stretch every third day for five to 10 minutes to keep your muscles supple. If your muscles are particularly tight, you may want to perform gentle stretching more often.
• Static stretching gradually lengthens a resting muscle. Do not bounce or reach once you have stretched your muscle to an elongated position. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
So will I do this? As the quote says, “Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse.” It’s either “do it” or re-think how I will dress and undress myself.
If you have any questions, or if there is a topic you want to read about in the Ask Your Daughter column, please send me an email at [email protected] or write to me at Senior Services of Albany, 32 Essex St., Albany, 12206.
Be well and be happy.