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.