I have come a long way in building a regular habit of stretching and it’s getting stronger. While it helps to have a Yoga instructor for a wife, we’ve been married for seven years and I’m just now taking seriously the importance of regular streching. So, when I comes down to it, it’s been me changing the way I think about why stretching is so valuable to my health that has made the difference.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, but I wish I had built a regular stretching practice years ago. It’s unfortunate is took a chronically sore back in my early 30’s to set me on the path, but it is what it is at this point.
As for my back, it is feeling much better. I am able to play basketball on a regular basis without my back tightening for days at a time. While I’ve done just a minimal amount of core muscle strength training, really the only thing I have done different is stretch on a regular basis.
I’ve heard that a regular stretching practice can add years to your life, and I can’t see how this isn’t true just by seeing my increased mobility and activity since I’ve started taking better care of my back through stretching.
I created my 43Things.com account a couple weeks ago. It’s pretty cool to see what other people want to accomplish, but it is particularly useful the write down the goal, set reminders and journal my progress. You know they say goals you write down always stand a better chance of getting done.
Of all the goals I’ve added so far, the one about stretching and the other one about strengthening my core have come along the farthest so far. That is probably because they are about getting rid of pain, the pain in my lower back that is. Funny how we quickly most of us try to avoid pain!
At any rate, in the two weeks I’ve set these goals, I have already seen some real progress. In particular, the stretching has really helped. Although, I still have a long way to go before I can claim to have strengthened my core abdominal muscles. Nonetheless, I am headed in the right direction and my back…whole body for that matter…are feeling better.
The picture above might give a distorted picture of my flexibility. There are certain poses where I have a head start and this is one of them. Fortunately, it is one my chiropractor asked me to do to stretch my gluts. The other muscle groups he asked me to focus on to help my back include my psoas and thighs. So far, I have been pretty good about stretching these muscle groups daily, and once a week I’ve had my wife, who is a yoga instructor, work with me on some related yoga poses.
This goal is closely related to the one I have about strengthening my core muscles to improve my back pain. I think two of the key reasons I’ve had the lower back pain I’ve had is a lack of strength in the stomach and poor flexibility of key muscles.
Dr. Burnet, my chiropractor, asked me to focus stretching my gluts, thighs, and in particular, my psoas (see above picture). During my first visit to see him 1 ½ weeks ago, he told me my hamstrings were actually pretty flexible, but my psoas was very tight. This explained why some of the more traditional hamstring stretches are a problem for me, but why I was still able to crouch very low to the ground with my feet flat on the floor…like a monkey as my wife likes to say. This was a surprise to me, because I always thought my hamstrings were the problem. He actually asked me to avoid stretching my hamstring, because it could further irritate my lower back.
I’ve made a decent go of it for this first week after setting this goal. I started trying to stretch daily in earnest last Saturday, and I was successful 5 out of the 7 days in actually stretching. I didn’t stretch Wednesday or Thursday, and felt some tightness after playing basketball this morning. Fortunately, the pain cleared up pretty quickly, and I did stretch a bit before and certainly after playing hoops.