Like many people hovering around the halfway point of their life, I have been redoubling and expanding my efforts to be healthy. It's not because I wasn't already putting forth effort, it's because I want to do a better job of it.
In the last few years my wife and I have been kicking our respective butts to stay in shape. We've been using a strong combination of running, weight training, and improved nutrition in order to do so. And, with the exception of the occasional misstep, we've really seen some good improvement.
However, it hasn't been without flaws.
When one starts making progress in their workout routine, you need to start changing things up so that you don't plateau. As you do this, you start finding the things that work as you tweak your routine.
This is all good, except that as you start to make gains, you can get caught up in the gains and miss the problems that are creeping up on you.
By the mid point of this last year, I had really been putting on some muscle. My abs could more or less be counted visibly, my man-boobs had become primarily man-like and less boob-like. My shoulders, arms, and legs were all taking a more pleasing shape.
However, what I had forgotten to take care of was maintaining proper flexibility. I had been doing lots of stretching, but as my workouts were getting longer, I would catch myself not doing my stretching and yoga. What resulted was that, as I put on more muscle, my body started to tighten up. I didn't even notice until I was already there.
I realized it one day when I noticed how much harder it was to keep good posture. I had worked hard to regain my posture after I'd had some surgery a number of years back. But suddenly it had seemed that standing straight was really hard.
This was because my abs had become so tight it was causing me to curl forward. It's a common problem in weight trainers. Their shoulders start to curve inward and they start to have that muscular hunch in their back. It's a flexibility issue. All the front muscles are strong and tight and begin to bend you forward like a macaroni noodle.
This is really not good.
Well, after a string of injuries in the second half of the year, I determined to re-evaluate my workout and go in a better direction.
This year, I've been biasing my workout toward Yoga. I am still doing strength training, but the Yoga has strength building as part of the moves even as it is increasing flexibility. I'm also doing a lot of combo moves that work multiple parts of the body all at once.
Crawl push-ups. Straight arm planks. Straight arm side planks. (those last two suck, by the way.) Jump squats. (those suck even worse. I did 125 of them today. I may never walk again.) But I'm also doing things like modified warrior's pose with a twist for butt, side, and groin flexibility and hamstring and quad strength. Sun salutation for hamstring, back, and butt flexibility. Cobra pose for abdominal flexibility and spinal release plus arm strengthening.
This is just a few of the things I'm doing besides running and such.
And I'm seeing the difference almost immediately.
So, I must be feeling great then, right?
Here is the problem. It's not actually a problem, but it feels like it in the short term. The problem is, my body was so out of whack, that it had done all manner of weird things to compensate. But as I stretch, especially with cobra pose, the increased space in my spine as my core muscles relax and lengthen back to optimal size begins to do it's work. And by "do it's work" I mean, my whole spine starts to loosen up. And when this happens, things start popping and shifting and realigning.
I'll feel something move, then I'll feel three other places move in close succession. And then, later in the day, I start hurting in weird places. Not because I've damaged anything, but because I have freed things that have been locked together. I have created an environment where my body can change it's position and move back to a better form. And it hurts! There is a lot of internal resistance happening. I loosen up one spot, and I realize that two others are now out of position because their position was dependent upon the one thing I just fixed. So, they now have to shift. But every time something shifts I find another spot that needs to move.
And so the dominos of change fall.
You find that each problem was masking another problem and the whole process becomes painful. Good, but painful.
Over time the pain disappears as the problems fix themselves and soon you find that all is, more or less, right in your world.
This is the great truth about change. It hurts. We want to hold on to what IS very tightly, even if it is harming us. This is because we have found a balance, even if it is a precarious one.
Change undoes that shaky balance. It forces us to let go of the things we held to so fiercely for so long. It forces us to experience something new and that transition process can be very painful. But eventually, a strange thing happens. One day we realize that we don't hurt anymore and we start realizing that our life has improved dramatically and we ask ourself a very probing question.
Why didn't we do it all sooner?