Feature Stories

Stretching (Sort Of)

I only recently took up stretching. Not voluntarily, of course, but because a lifetime of never stretching caught up with me. It is truly remarkable how much difference it is making, to my mobility and even blood circulation. Now, it turns out, I need to stretch even more. On top of that, I need to stretch differently. To put it bluntly, I have to do it correctly, every day.

Well, first of all, how remarkable that even doing it wrong can provide so much benefit. Next comes how can I know if I’m doing it right? Reluctantly, tap into my wife’s knowledge. She is a lifelong stretcher, as well as a yoga practitioner. See my problem? It was trying to avoid taking her advice that originally led me to stretch alone (and wrong). She has this irritating habit of being right, a lot.

So, I finally did what any man would do: after trying every other possibility, I did the right thing and asked my wife to guide me in stretching. She graciously agreed and now we stretch together nearly every morning. Why the morning; because if I don’t do it early, I don’t do it. Unfortunately, that means getting up early enough to have the time. It also means waiting to eat breakfast until after stretching. See why I wasn’t doing it this way before? Anyway, back to the stretching.

The worst part was the humiliation. No, my wife wasn’t being mean to me; she’s far too sweet for that. It was how little I was able to do. “Bend down slowly and touch your toes.” No. There is a reason I sit down to tie my shoes: I can’t reach my feet any other way. “OK, let’s do it in stages. First, just ease down to your knees and inch your arms further as you descend.” Over I bent, hanging above my feet at the halfway mark. “Good. Take a deep breath and sink lower as you exhale.” Nothing happened, except I got a little dizzy from the deep breathing. “That’s great, Honey. It will get easier.”

Then, “Turn your head to the left . . . Honey, turn your head to the left.” I was turning my head to the left. “OK, now look straight ahead and bend you head towards your right shoulder . . . Don’t raise your right shoulder, just relax and let your right ear slowly fall toward that shoulder.” When I lowered my shoulder, my head went back up again. Standing there waiting for my ear to make its way south felt ridiculous.

Eventually there was progress. However, each day’s improvement results in new and deeper stretches. I didn’t see that coming!

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Little things like bending over, using the right form, feel like exercise because you are doing new things with your muscles. You don’t build up a sweat, but it feels like a workout. Kind of counter-intuitive really — it isn’t a sport; it invigorates you instead of making you tired. The truth is, I am feeling more agile and have more energy since stretching regularly and correctly. That’s what keeps me doing it. Let’s face, it getting older isn’t for sissies. You have to be in shape and that means working at it every day. Hey, don’t blame me. It’s not my idea, but it turns out to be true.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont.  His Boomer Funk columns are available at VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.

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