Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stretch Some Things and Strengthen Others

Some people love to do yoga; they do it all the time. Others love to run; they also do it all the time. Weightlifters love to lift weights; they too do it all the time. All of them think their exercise plan is the best and seldom branch out of it.

Is this a recipe for developing the capacity to do all the physical things that you want to do during a long life? I think not. The two main reasons I think that you must do a variety of activities are that we adapt to stressors quickly (and then plateau or regress) and because no single exercise or training style will hit all the components that contribute to a long, healthy, capable life. We have to mix it up to stay gain and maintain fitness. I also think this is more interesting way to approach movement and will help keep you on your training plan.
Frank has a bunch books worth reading
I'm really enjoying reading Frank Forencich's book Play as if Your Life Depends on It. Among the many gems of wisdom he writes about, he talks about how certain parts of the body weaken with age and other parts tend to shorten over time. A training plan that tries to strengthen everything or one that tries to stretch everything is counter productive. Coupled with the style of life that modern humans live, we have to really focus our physical training time (or movement time or even better, play time) in such a way to unlock the natural mobility we have within each of us.

Frank's view is that we should work to stretch muscles like the hamstrings, pecs, biceps, calves, psoas and forearms since these contract over time. The gluts (butt), abdominals and low back (my addition) tend to weaken with age so we should do exercises to strengthen them. This could seem like a complicated training requirement but it really means that you need to deadlift, squat, pull yourself up and stretch against the sitting posture that we tend to keep through most of the day. Stand up, move around, squat down, pick up something heavy, go for a walk.
Good health advice comes in many flavors
Learn about your body and try new things no matter what your age or current condition. You are your own trainer, physical therapist, orthopedist and nutritionist. Keep picking from a variety of  training styles. You'll find that you stay interested in your exercise time more and you'll also develop skills that will serve you throughout a long & adventurous life.
Mix it up and keep it fresh!

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