I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a fitness expert.

I am a 57 year old woman who has never felt more healthy and fit in my entire life. Five years ago, at 52, I weighed about 80 lbs. more than I do now. I felt much older, with stiff joints and back aches and no energy. And don't even ask about clothes!

My goal was not just weight loss, but to get healthier. I did not "go on a diet," I did not count calories or carbs. I made lifestyle changes, a little at a time. I tried to eat healthier and move more. You can do this, too. You can make changes to look, and more importantly, feel healthier and fit. You don't have to be overweight to be unfit. You will feel a difference in strength, energy, stamina and flexibility. I'm talking to you, men, too!

I can tell you how I did it. Not everything I do will be right for you. Through posts about my progress; tips and ideas about nutrition and exercise; links to sites I like and find helpful, I hope to inspire others to get fit and healthy and encourage a community of support and an exchange of ideas. And have a little fun on the way! Much of our information will be about local Cape Ann sites - walking and bike routes, gyms, types of exercise, yoga studios, good buys on healthy food - but Guests and commenters from anywhere are welcome as well.

Okay, I know you all want to know. Right now I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8. A comfortable size 8!

Twenty year old daughter:
"Mom, why are you wearing my clothes?"
Mom: "Because I can!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fitness Stretching

A year or so into my new lifestyle of eating healthier and covering the City of Gloucester on foot, I started thinking about working out to tone my now smaller body. On a morning walk, I stopped into Curves of Gloucester, which was then located on Parker Street - a place I often passed on my walks. I took a tour and signed up. There are endless discussions on the internet about the pros and cons of Curves and other facilities and exercise routines. I like Curves and I'm still there (save for a year or so off due to injuries - not exercise related, just being my graceless self). It's not for everyone and again, it comes down to finding something you like that you'll keep up with. I'll write more about why I like it, how to get the most out of it and talk about other exercise routines and types of facilities in another post.

My favorite part of my Curves routine is the flexing and stretching I do after the workout. They recommend holding each stretch for 15 seconds - I'm now holding them for 30 seconds or a minute each while concentrating on breathing. I just can't say enough about what this kind of stretching does for my balance, flexibility, range of motion, stress and circulation. I have never done yoga, except for trying it a bit at home. I imagine that these stretches are a little like practicing yoga and I may try some yoga sessions one of these days.

Curves Flexibility Chart:

jpg image file or pdf file

Do some stretching every day - maybe try this routine every other day with some milder stretching on alternate days. You probably won't be able to stretch the full range to start, but keep at it - push and stretch a little more, a little harder every time. Stretching can enhance an exercise routine, but even if you're not doing aerobics or strength training, there are great benefits to be had from getting into a stretching habit, no matter what your present fitness level is.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Benefits of stretching

Most aerobic and strength training programs inherently cause your muscles to contract and flex. That's why regular stretching is a powerful part of any exercise program. Consider this:
  • Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.
  • Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls — and the related injuries — especially as you age.
  • Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.
  • Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.
Stretching is also highly recommended for people with arthritis:

Improving Flexibility - Arthritis Foundation

When I first started, even after all my walking and thinking I was pretty fit, I could barely reach back and grab my foot, let alone pull it up anywhere near my butt! And later, after a knee injury, I had limited range of motion in the joint. I worked at it, stretching each time just to the point of pain. It took some time, but I now have full range and my knee feels great.

Aging does not have to mean creaky joints and limited motion. I will tell you - I can now reach, twist and turn body parts and joints in ways that I have never, ever been able to. And it feels awesome!

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