Apologies for the long, looooong break, Füßgängers. Between moving, remodelling and some family illnesses, life has kept me “busier than a bedsheet on a clothesline by the freeway,” as my friend LD would say.
This is the first in a series I said I would do, on self-care for folks who are largely or wholly pursuing a car-free lifestyle, intentionally, or otherwise. And I specifically want to talk about stretching, because I hate it, so I suspect you do as well. And because not doing it is going to hurt your endurance and longevity in keeping moving.
First, I’m going to reiterate a bunch of caveats:
- I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. We overstretched, bounced while stretching, and did a bunch of things that are considered terrible for you today. I’m sure I still have bad habits. That being said, I will be completely unfazed if 5 or 10 years from now, if all the current best practices in stretching are considered terrible for you as well.
- I am not a trainer, physical therapist, doctor or anything else other than a practitioner who’s been doing stuff for a long time. Don’t start an exercise program without talking to a doctor, don’t disregard their advice (the internet < their medical degree) and don’t do things that hurt.
So, I hate stretching and I was doing very little of it, when I embarked on this journey a few years ago. About 3 months into biking and walking almost exclusively, I started to creak and groan more, take longer to stand up, get out of bed, etc. And I started to have cramps in my feet and calves when doing really basic stuff, like putting on my shoes or walking up the stairs.
I was starting to worry I had some kind of degenerative bone disease, or something similarly terrible when I decided to try a yoga class, which I had always done more for relaxation than anything else. What I learned during that class was that I was really, REALLY tight, especially in my lower back and legs.
What I learned afterward was that I didn’t hurt for a day or two, which kinda convinced me I needed to get back on it. Now yoga is great for you (another post on that later), but it is about much more than stretching – it’s about balance, strength, inner peace and more. I find I realistically only get to a studio to do that about once a week, which isn’t really enough these days to keep my joints as limber as I would like.
What I’ve settled on, for days I am not already doing yoga, is a 15-30 minute routine that may involve a few asanas (poses), but is more just a series of safe, relatively light stretches to shake off any accumulated tension from the previous day and warm me up for whatever the day brings. I try to hit all of these muscle groups every day.
Broken toe pose
- Downward dog.