If your body has been creaky and cranky lately from too much sitting, computer time and television, you might be feeling a little wobbly. That’s natural. However, you might also have undermined some of your core strength with sedentary habits.
If the idea of going up stairs or returning to an exercise program (now that we’re beginning to see the end of the Covid quarantine) feels daunting, you’re not alone. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Ryan, my fitness trainer, stood behind me as I practiced the Turkish get up. If you master it, especially with a kettlebell, it’s as good an exercise as you will ever do to stay limber and strong.
It gives me a hard time on one side because I recently re-fractured my right pinky toe. Based on some of the comments my fellow Sixty and Me sisters have written lately, sounds like more than a few of us are dealing with a few dings and dongs.
Getting back into the swing of things, which for me means returning to a full-scale training program, is different for all of us. As we age, however, a long break in our exercise program can leave us sidelined in the proverbial ditch and struggling to get back on our feet again.
Which is why it’s even more important, as we age, to do just that, even though it’s tempting to think it’s just too hard.
This week I interviewed my sports chiropractor, Dr. Kevin Plummer, and my personal trainer, Ryan, for advice for those of us who suddenly find that the flight of stairs that used to be easy now winds us, or the idea of taking a long walk feels out of reach.
Nearly a year of cocooned living for many of us can mean that the natural deterioration of muscle, known as sarcopenia, might have cost us. The good news, however, is that while it might take a little time and effort, what we had, and a lot more, is available.
Dr. Plummer works with a lot of clients our age and so does Ryan. Here’s what they both had to say about the self-talk that can keep us from leaving the soft seat of our couches.
Plummer says that it starts in your head. “Instead of saying ‘I just can’t do that any more’, change the last two words to ‘right now’. That allows for the fact that any of us at any age can get behind, a little lazy, and feel like we just don’t have what it takes. Of course, you still do. But if we buy into the story that it’s all over, that becomes our truth.”
Ryan says that the first step to returning to full fitness is to take baby steps. “If you can’t hike a mountain, hike the neighborhood. Can’t hike the neighborhood, hike the stairs. Can’t do eight stairs, do two. The point is to DO. Not to give up.
“If you don’t work those big quad muscles in your legs, your thighs, then you will cripple yourself for the rest of your life. Just practicing getting up and down off the couch or out of a chair until you can do it without using the arm rests is a step in the right direction.”
Be patient, says Plummer. “The older we get, it might take a bit of time to ramp back up. But muscle memory is like magic. The body will most often give you what you want, if you ask rather than demand, coax rather than push. Allowing ourselves and our magnificent bodies to find their own way back to full activity is an act of love, for the body likes work.”
Trust your body, Ryan says. “We are born to move, and the less we move, the more we hurt. The more we hurt the more we default to rest, which is the opposite of what the body really wants and needs. Our backs, hips and knees bark harder at us for NOT working than from working, unless we have a serious injury. That’s different.”
Both professionals emphasize that one of the keys to returning to full activity is to have a sense of humor. You may have to return to baby weight. Or simple step exercises for a while. If you watch your body with joy and laughter, those dopey endorphins will absolutely make this a far funnier journey than being irritated that we’re no longer 30.
This has indeed been a taxing year, and we’re not in the clear yet. That said, if you can, it might make sense to start moving a bit more, finding ways to put a touch more stretch and flex into your days, so that in the days ahead, when it’s time to head out with the girls on a bike ride or walk or hike, you’ll be ready to go.
What methods have you used to stay limber during quarantine? Have you got a favorite trick that gets you going when your head wants to stay put with a coffee and croissant? What are your favorite tactics to get up, out and in the open air?