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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #116, Stretching and the tranquil mind.
June 15, 2013
June 15, 2013
In this newsletter . . .
Stretching and the tranquil mind
In the early pre-steroid days of muscle magazine publishing, Bob Hoffman used to write in Strength & Health about a balanced lifestyle. He referenced the ancient Greeks and the philosophy of moderation in all things. One of the S&H tenets of good health was what he termed the "maintenance of a tranquil mind."
Today with 24/7 news cycles and daily bombardments of life’s ugliness, we have to wonder sometimes if tranquility is even possible. Yet for good health, it has to be. Peaceful walks in the woods or at the shore can be wonderful, but they are not always available. In their place, short-term breaks from everyday travails can be our salvation.
Intuitively, I think we all know that we're better off if we set aside some time each day for mind and body relaxation. We may not think there are enough hours in the day. Yet we must budget our time for at least brief periods of calmness. The practice of something like Tai Chi or the stretching poses of Yoga or Qi Gong can provide the calming of rushed and hurried minds.
Stretching, in general, has two primary purposes. The first is to relax the mind and body following a workout, or to take a break from stressful activity. The second is to increase or retain flexibility and range of motion, extremely important factors for seniors.
Many of us shortchange ourselves by not taking time to stretch and relax after workouts. We rush into the gym, change clothes, hit the weights, and then rush out into freeway traffic home. Rush, rush, rush. When five or 10 minutes invested in calming mind and body following workouts would be time well spent.
Here are a few thoughts on that sort of stretching:
• You do not need to be a contortionist to reap the benefits of stretching. In fact, striving for “loose joints” may even increase the chances of injury in some athletics.
• Practice dynamic or static stretching. To simplify those terms, dynamic stretching means there is more movement involved, such as in Tai Chi, Pilates, and some forms of Yoga. Static stretching refers to the stretch-and-hold types, as in most Yoga practices.
• The third form is ballistic stretching, which is characterized by rapid and sometimes jerky or bouncy movements. It is not appropriate for a workout cooling off period or to calm jangled nerves.
The stretches I choose are a mixture of movements I’ve learned over the years through weight training, martial arts, and Qi Gong. Whatever type you prefer, the following is sound advice . . .
Do not force your stretching. Relax into a stretch. That means go only to the edge of discomfort. Then back off just a bit and hold there for a moment, allowing your body to relax. Be soft. By not forcing yourself to go further, your muscles will relax and you will find that you can — softly — move further into your stretch than you thought possible. Now hold 10 or 15 seconds.
Calm your mind and relax your muscles by focusing on your breathing, by softly inhaling and exhaling from deep within. If you listen only to your breath, negative thoughts dissipate. Your heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. It is the break your mind and body craves.
For more stretching and relaxation information, go here.
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Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.
I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.
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The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.
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