Bend And Stretch

I have been training a wonderful new client.  She’s excited to work on and improve her fitness level, and so far, every time I have gone to her house, she has either maintained or surpassed her daily goals.  She has warned me that she always starts off like this and tends to level out after the second week, and has lapsed periodically into a no-fitness zone.  I believe her, because I know from my own experience how hard it can be to let yourself have what you want, and then stay motivated to keep going.  Running is the one thing that has taken my heart and kept it pounding like crazy; it’s like cardio heroin for me.  I can’t get enough.  I need it.

Today as we warmed up and dove into strength training, I could already see significant progress in her level of fitness.  She even talked about some great outdoor workouts two days in a row over the weekend, and how wonderful her body felt.  She has already reached one of her fitness goals— to walk one mile without back pain.  Less than two weeks of core work have helped her reach that goal.  It is proof to both of us, to all of us,  that you can get what you want if you allow yourself to have it.  And that becoming strong keeps you strong.

When cool-down time came and we plunked down on the floor to stretch our legs, I looked over at her and she was almost in a complete split.  She could reach her toes effortlessly.  On the second hamstring stretch, where I could barely tap my toes with my fingertips, she was cradling the back of her foot with her hand.  I envied how easy it was for her muscles to spring open, while mine were straining.  I assisted her in some shoulder stretches and chest openers, areas where she is particularly tight, and she relaxed enough to realize a deep opening, her arms well behind her back.  She was beautiful standing there, like a bird riding a thermal air current on a hazy afternoon.  Her breath came easily; I knew she what she was feeling.  Stretching feels good.

She worries she will quit.  She is afraid that work will get in the way, that she won’t have enough time or energy to stick with her plan.  But she wants this.  We talked about keeping her goals attainable, and keeping close track of her progress, so that when she’s feeling vulnerable, she can see what she has accomplished and allow herself to take care of her body.  I reminded her to take each day as it comes, and to be flexible.  And there it was.  Another fitness rule.

Be Flexible. This rule has double meaning:  the first is to allow yourself to vary your routine.  If it’s pouring rain and you have planned a walk and cannot bear to set foot out the door, change your plan and find an inside activity.  Try a video.  Go to the library and rent a video if you don’t own one.  Turn on some good music and dance.  Take out that old stationary bike and ride it.  Do jumping jacks or jump rope.  Don’t have a jump rope?  Fake it.  It still counts as aerobic exercise.

The second meaning speaks to physical flexibility.  Even serious fitness freaks can easily overlook flexibility training.  It’s simple enough.  Stretching after exercise helps prevent injuries.  Stretching also helps maintain ease of movement in daily life.   Stretching reduces muscle tension, promotes relaxation, decreases soreness from exercise, and prevents muscle shortening that may result from inactivity, age, or disease.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends holding a stretch to the point of mild discomfort for 20-30 seconds.
Peruse fitness magazines and books.  Most have sections on the best ways to stretch.  Taking a few yoga classes can help get you on your way to limbering up.  Be flexible.

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2 Comments on “Bend And Stretch”

  1. lise Says:

    my friend I enjoy reading about you…and keeping a bit of a connection when time seems to tight to talk. I often read your blog when I really should be doing other things 🙂

    I am so happy you have found something that clearly you are passionate about. You go Girl!!

  2. Craig Says:

    I find your point of view on fitness quite different from my own. You state, “I know from my own experience how hard it can be to let yourself have what you want, and then stay motivated to keep going.”

    My point of view is less that fitness is something I am not letting myself have, as much as it is something I feel I need to do, but don’t have the initial motivation to break into it, (much less maintain it).

    Maybe it’s just the “winter” talking. I do so look forward to real, outdoor biking.


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