Work your way into a more flexible new year.
Does anyone else feel like 2020 will be an important year? Maybe because it’s 20/20, indicating a new vision for the world, for the country, for life. I have expectations, but I’m not sure what for, exactly.
What I do know is that for the past two to three years, I have had healthy eating, good food choices, cardio, walking and exercise as a priority, simply because I want to be a healthy person. The bulk of the 57 pounds I lost two years ago has remained gone, but honestly, in 2019, I got tired of focusing on it all.
I’m tired of the same foods I’ve been eating for the past three years. I’m tired of wanting pasta and not eating it. I’m tired of the aches and pains associated with too many bad exercise moves. I’m tired of thinking about fat, vegetables, exercise and all things associated with trying to look good and feel good.
However, as I get older, I want my body to stay in a healthy place; we all know, you are either moving forward or regressing when it comes to exercise. At the beginning of 2019, I realized that much of the weight I had lost was muscle. I was smaller but weaker. I started walking the major hills in my area. After a month, my knees were out of whack and I developed sciatic nerve pain that kept me awake most nights.
It was a bittersweet decision to stop walking the hills. I don’t like walking, but I did like the cardio activity and being outside. I had to find something I could do consistently and enjoyed enough to keep doing it. I wanted to be strong and feel good, so I focused on exercises that would make my muscles stronger, flexible and healthier. I’m not into yoga and Pilates specifically, but I thought I should focus on stretching my muscles, using my own body weight, and being able to get up and down off the floor with ease. I figured if I can move into my 50s, 60s, 70s, and maybe 80s and 90s and maintain as much strength, stamina, and flexibility in my body as possible, that would be good enough for me.
About two months ago, I started stretching regularly. In the beginning, just getting on the floor and getting up was nearly impossible. At first, my goal was getting down on the floor and up again. I did that over and over for days until it was easy. Now, I do it effortlessly. I’m in my 50s, so this is an important move.
Over the weeks, I added all kinds of stretches – body-weight leg lifts, planks, butterfly stretches, cat-stretches, toe-touches, anything that stretched muscles. These moves have all progressed to where I am pretty flexible now. I plan to do this forever, or as long as I can. I actually enjoy it, which is maybe the first time I can remember looking forward to exercising.
I force my body to stretch a little bit more every few days and I feel so much stronger than I did a couple months ago. It’s amazing to me how little you have to do each day to make such significant changes. My entire routine takes about 20 minutes each morning. I feel so good and stretched afterward.
There is one move that I started doing each night before bed and it makes such a difference for me. It’s called Legs Up a Wall pose. It makes my back feel great, especially after sitting for long periods of time.
Now, I am by no means over here doing splits and gymnastics, but I can move a lot better and am much stronger. All the stretching must be working.
As we start this new year, give stretching a try. No equipment other than a mat is needed; if you are on a carpeted area, maybe all you need is a towel. Make it a decision to stretch all year long and see how much more flexible you are in 12 months. Let’s do it!
– Jan Leary, an Acworth resident and blogs about food, health and life at vesselsandvittles.com.