Saturday, November 03, 2007

Aimees Soapbox October

Aimee's October Soapbox
October 2007: Stretching, or How Not to Feel Like an Old Lady at 40
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Greetings Groovy Soapbox Readers!
So I'm lying on the floor, trying to stretch my hamstrings. I've got my stretching band around my foot, and I am attempting to lift my leg straight up in the air. I fight back the tears as a bead of sweat drips down my forehead and onto the carpet. My leg shakes, and I curse the heavens and take the flexibility god's name in vain.

Now, at this point some of you might be wondering why I am having such a difficult time with stretching, especially when I have been preaching and pontificating on the Virtue of Flexibility in this column for the past four years. Hmmm, a wee bit hypocritical, you say?

Let me explain myself and provide some exposition. First, I had just finished up my own racing season, and this was my first workout back after having taken a full week off. So, in the course of the taper, competition, and recovery week, I had not done much of anything in terms of real working out except the actual races. Second, I had, only a few days earlier, been on an airplane for about twenty hours straight. Now, I know that I am smaller than the average bear, but even my 5' 2" self got a bit cramped after that long of a flight.

Of course, I could have and should have been continuing to stretch all throughout that recovery week. But I will admit to being a lazy dog and doing absolutely nothing on those off days. Pardon my self- back-patting, but I felt that after a challenging training and racing season, I had earned a coupla days of couch surfing.

So back to the floor and my attempt to stretch my sneering hamstrings. . . . Well, Groovy Readers, let me tell you that it was something of an Epiphany for me. For one thing, it cemented my belief that stretching is indeed a key component of fitness. When you remember that fitness can be defined as "quality of life," you have to realize that not being able to bend over to tie your shoes or not being able to put lotion on your own back is a definite limitation on one's life quality. And for another thing, it made me realize that, just like exercise, it is easy to get out of flexibility shape and tough to get back in. Geez, after less than two weeks of no stretching, I was unable to touch my toes or do a simple yoga Sun Salutation. Sigh. . . .

What's an almost-forty-year-old to do then? Go back to the basics, of course. For me, that is Active Isolated Stretching, kinesiologist Aaron Mattes' technique of flexibility exercises. (For more on this technique, please read the October 2004 Soapbox, or go to The "back to basics," then, means the following:

1. MAKE TIME TO STRETCH EVERY DAY. Mattes suggests daily stretching, since our muscles can shorten or stiffen from work, training, posture, or stress. So my temporary break from stretching and working out, while doing wonders for my mental state, really did nothing to help me stay loose and relaxed physically.

2. STRETCH PROPERLY. While there are several stretching methods out there (ballistic, passive, static, PNF), I think that Active Isolated Stretching is the grooviest out there. Mattes put his years of education and experience to good use in formulating the AIS technique. It works WITH the body's physiology and is a safe, effective method. And it identifies and isolates the specific muscle to be stretched in order to achieve the best result. (Again, see his website or one of his books for the exact directions on how to perform the stretches.)

3. VALUE FLEXIBILITY AS A KEY COMPONENT OF WELLNESS. As illustrated above, NOT stretching really has a detrimental effect on overall fitness or quality of life. So instead of thinking of it as just something to do after my run, I really need to think of it as something I do for my overall health- mind, body, and spirit.
Convinced yet, dear Groovy Readers? Trust me, that moment on the floor was embarrassing and humbling enough to convince me. And I already believed. Now, off you go. . . drop and give me twenty trunk rotations.
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Hey Ladies! Come to our Paoli shop for Girlz Nite on Monday, October 22 at 6:30pm!
Enjoy a night out with your fellow women runners & walkers, and learn about training, nutrition, and more. Presenters include a Bobbi Kisebach (massage therapy), Nancy Whelan (Champion Sports Bra representative), and Keith Straw (nationally-ranked ultramarathoner). All attendees receive a free goodie bag!

RSVP to 610-296-2868, hope to see you there!
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