Changing my body – Stretching and cardio
I have my home gym in place, and I know what I’m doing for the exercises. I chatted with my brother-in-law last night who does a bunch of stuff with weights and works out regularly. He knows way more about this stuff than I do, and I got some good tips for how I set up my routine for the future in terms of weight levels for the BowFlex and number of reps.
But as I look farther forward to my “new” normal for working regularly and changing my body, there are several things still in my “to be determined” category. Two of those are stretching and cardio.
I need to do more stretching for two primary reasons. First and foremost, so that I don’t injure myself while working out. The whole “warm-up / cool-down” thing that everyone understands easily.
However, I have a second reason which is just plain flexibility. If I am sitting in a chair, and I want to tie a shoe by crossing my right leg over my left leg, I can’t do it. As I pull my right leg up, I can get my ankle to just below my left knee, but then my right hip starts to object. Sure, I can reach down and PULL it into position, and I do regularly, but it’s not the same as just lifting it. If I do my left leg, I can ALMOST get it up, but then my left hip REALLY hates me. Or my left adductor. Depends on the movement and how fast I try to do it. If I try to lean forward simply, without adjusting my legs outward, my belly gets compressed and one of the muscles or several of the fascia in my upper stomach area says, “Nuh-huh, you ain’t doing that today, bitch.”
Losing weight will help with a lot of the resistance areas, but I need to be doing a comprehensive stretching routine. My view, generally speaking, is that there are three levels:
- Structured stretching
- Yoga poses
- Tai chi
I may be the only one on the planet that thinks of those that way, but I do. Stretching is more technical in my mind…put this arm here, put this leg here, lean this way, good.
Yoga seems to me to be a step above that. It is more about overall body poses and flexibility. It includes stretching, sure, but it also gets you closer to movement and energy flow. I am not ready for serious yoga by any stretch of the imagination (or of my body! hah!), but Andrea has referred me to the Yoga by Adriene series on YouTube which is quite popular and has options for different levels of participant.
And then I see tai chi as a step even further along that spectrum. Less about stretching and flexibility, and more about the movement of your body. I feel like tai chi is something I could get to eventually, but I am SO not ready for it yet. I need to start with my “technical” exercises.
Let’s start with my “best” source, so to speak. If you think back to social media about 5 years ago, June 2016 or so, you may remember that a number of people were sending around some really good illustrations of how to do some exercises. The source was always unclear, and if you search for them online now, you’ll likely end up at various sites whose links no longer work. However, with a bit more luck, you can find them at the place I saw them originally, which is the LifeHack site and the post is still there (https://www.lifehack.org/345771/36-pictures-see-which-muscle-youre-stretching). Ignore the fact that there says there are 36 when there are only 34.
The pictures were realistic simulations of people doing the stretch, but where the muscles were being stretched, it showed almost an anatomical representation. The muscles were lit up in red showing you where IN and ON your body the muscles were that were being targeted. For example, there was one called the “wide forward fold” and the illustration shows a woman doing the splits with her adductors coloured in red.
In the collection, there are 34 possible exercises to do, of varying levels of difficulty (by my rating), with the text explaining how to actually do them.
|Camel Pose (01)||Rectus Abdominus|
|Wide Forward Fold (02)||Adductors||Medium|
|Frog Pose (03)||Adductors||Low-Medium|
|Wide Side Lunge Pose (04)||Adductors||High|
|Butterfly Stretch (05)||Adductors||Low|
|Forearm Extensor Stretch 1 (06)||Forearm Extensor||Low|
|Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck (07)||Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)||Low|
|Neck Rotation Stretch (08)||Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)||Low|
|Neck Extension Stretch (09)||Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)||Low|
|Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance (10)|| Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) |
|Half-kneeling Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch (11)||Psoas|
|Forearm Extensor Stretch 2 (12)||Forearm Extensor||Low|
|Lateral Shoulder Stretch (13)||Side Deltoid||Low|
|Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch (14)||Trapezius||Low|
|Lat Stretch with Spinal Traction (15)||Latissimus Dorsi||Medium-High|
|Lat Stretch at the Wall (16)||Latissimus Dorsi||Low-Medium|
|Child’s Pose (17)||Latissimus Dorsi||Low-Medium|
|Standing Calf Stretch (18)||Soleus|
|Front Split (19)||Psoas and Hamstring||High|
|Seated Forward Fold / Seated Toe Touch (20)||Hamstrings|
|Single Leg Forward Bend (21)||Hamstrings||Low|
|Deep Squat (22)||Glutes||High|
|Seated Half King Pigeon Pose (23)||Glutes||High|
|Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall (24)||Soleaus|
|Lateral Flexion at the Wall (25)||External Obliques||Low|
|Supine Twist (26)||Glutes|
|Lateral Flexion with a Dowel (27)||External Obliques|
|Triangle Pose (28)||External Obliques||Medium-High|
|Chest Stretch at the Wall (29)||Pectorals||Low|
|Assisted Chest Stretch (30)||Chest|
|Seated Half Pigeon Variation (31)||Anterior Tibialis||High|
|Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch (32)||Subscapularis||Low|
|Downward Dog Variation at the Wall (33)||Pectorals|
|Assisted Chest Stretch Variation (34)||Pectorals||Medium|
Of the 34 exercises, I rated 16 of them as low difficulty. Which is my simple way of saying I can do them now. Maybe not perfectly, but I can do them. Three more are ones that I rated Low-Medium difficulty which are ones that look easy but require a bit more flexibility and a bit less girth than I have now. Six more are ones that I think I could get to in the next year or so, maybe a bit more, but foreseeable at least. The three that I rate Medium-High and six that I rate High are almost pipedreams for me.
On the positive side, this gives me a short-term goal — working up to a daily routine based on the 16 “low difficulty” exercises I flagged above. There are two others that I do now, one being just stretching arms over the head to the left and right (a side arch) and a reverse arch with two hands straight up and back, that I may work in there, although they would replicate similar exercises above. I have one more from my chiropractor and RMT that is more of a bent upright row, but that will get picked up by the weight workout with the BowFlex.
As a friend pointed out in regards to a previous post, I have made a good start on physical and mental metrics, and I have the weights and now stretching figured out, but I don’t really have a good idea of what I’m going to do for Cardio.
I guess my plan comes down to three things, although I’m not sure it rises to the level of a “plan” so much as it is simply the options I see.
First and foremost, I need to do more walking. My friend was sharing with me his experience with walking, and I agree with all of his points. Starting small, tracking the steps, getting moving generally to get going. I have a FitBit and I have my phone for things like MapMyWalk. And I’m also interested in those online sites that do “distance” challenges. It’s a bit simplistic of a description, but it’s like you sign up to walk the height of Mount Everest, or the Appalachian Trail, or the Great Wall of China, something big, and then as you knock off a 2000-step day, it adds that to your total so far. Some sites also send you summaries to say, “Hey, great, you went 500 feet. In this 500 feet, you would have seen blah ablah blah, the site where runner James Smith had a massive heart attack and died, and heard birds chirping from the nearby bird sanctuary. Here are some photos!”.
I might be more tempted to “create” my own equivalent list in something like Google Maps rather than pay for a site, but hey, it’s an idea. At least through the other sites you get yourself a little medal or medallion to commemorate your steps (of course, you have to pay for it, but it’s gamification like Boy Scouts collecting badges).
Secondly, we have an exercise bike. Or at least we have the body of one, it still needs tweaking to be fully re-assembled and functional. Like with walking, I want to do distance things to track progress, although there are other settings too that track heart rates, intensity, etc. I doubt I’ll measure that, but they’re there.
Third, I have a scooter. It is an adult scooter designed for full-size woolly mammoths, and can handle me too. I tried using it shortly after I got it and it didn’t take many outings to realize I am just not in good enough shape for anything other than the basics. Way too much cardio for my current level of fitness to do much more than a block or two. So I’ll get there, but likely not before next spring/summer.
I have other dreams, I admit. I’d like to ride my regular bike too, although there are challenges for comfort with so much weight on so small a seat. I really would love to be able to go cross-country skiing when I retire, but again, I’m not there yet. A friend has a Finnish kick-sled, and if I ever get sub-250 lbs, I’d love to maybe give it a try (not sure how low I need to go, but somewhere around there). I really want to do kayaking, but I am neither flexible enough or agile enough for doing that. I doubt I’ll ever have the balance for stand-up paddle boarding, but I can dream I suppose. And since I’m already in technicolor world, I’d like to try Jacob’s trampoline when I get sub-230 lbs or so. A very very long way away for a bunch of those. Oooh, and maybe a rope course sometime. Wait, did I say that last one out loud? Hmm.
So in the short-term, I’m focusing on my BowFlex and weight routines. I’ll use the 16 low-difficulty exercises to get myself going for stretching and hopefully walking + exercise bike for some basic cardio.