Saturday, November 17, 2012


Perhaps five years ago I began to make a change. Like most lasting changes in my life, this one started slowly. I started taking perhaps 3 minutes while soaking in my morning bath to do some simple stretches. I did this on the blind faith that they must do some good - at least Kelly kept telling me they would.

At that point I could not reach my toes - in fact, I couldn’t come within 6 inches of my toes.

Since then I have gone through a slow increase in the number of stretches and the time I make for stretching each day. At this point I am spending 10 to 20 minutes each morning stretching, and, weekdays, 20 to 30 minutes guiding 2 to 5 other people in their 50's to 70's through a stretch session. In addition to giving me a chance to enhance my flexibility, I also get a chance to amuse one of our cats. Max is pretty convinced I do these stretches so he will have a new place to curl up for a bit.

What does all this mean? In terms of aches and strains - they are pretty much gone. As in, even with the ridiculously strenuous workouts that I enjoy, I am not having chronic back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, I am just not experiencing the problems I did in my 40's and early 50's. While it is true that some of the more strenuous days will result in muscle soreness the next day, I am not fighting the long term pain of stressed joints, ligament and tendons.

Now I can not only reach my toes, I can wrap 2 to 3 inches of my fingers around my toes. Most amazingly (at least to me), I can now turn around far enough to see behind me when I back up a car.

Just like my exercise routine, my stretching routine has grown as I learned more, and as I recognized the need for more focused stretches. I won’t even begin to act like I am a pro at this all - I just know it works for me.

I’ll talk a bit about the physiology of stretching in my next post.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aches and Pains

Stiff old man. Creaky old man. Won’t even mention “Cranky old man”. As we age we naturally loose the flexibility of youth. I see this everyday when I work out at the gym. For some, this results in numerous aches and pains, for others, more focus on joint pain, or maybe a specific joint that “gives them trouble”. What I see most are folk who decide they can no longer do a specific exercise or series of exercises because they hurt.

Over the years I found that one thing that really bugs me is not being able to look behind me when backing a car. Which is really bad because 1. I think I am a good driver (a belief held by 99.994% of the men out there), and 2. Because I would really not like to back into something. Like it or not, as the years went by, I just couldn’t turn far enough to see where I was going.

The other thing that getting older taught me years ago was that I needed to be more careful when doing things - if I wasn’t I would likely strain something, like my back, and that I would be in pain until I was smart enough to back off for a while and let the strain heal.

On top of this, my life-long (OK, post 25 anyway) focus on exercise kept me fit, but, if anything, resulted in even more loss of range of motion - exercise, without stretching, can all too quickly make you stronger and less flexible.

The good news from perhaps my 45th birthday till my 55th is that Kelly, my wife, became very good at giving me back massages that loosened up my back and got my backbone back into alignment.

Oh, and I learned the benefit of taking ibuprofen and using ice packs to reduce inflamation.

In my next post I will talk about what I have done to reduce my bodies aches and pains.