Mariner is growing older – well, a lot of growing older already has occurred but still, he is growing yet even older than that. Like many elders, he has aches and pains that lead him to a rehab center where he is led through a series of namby-pamby stretching exercises. Mariner agrees that the stretching drills do relax the skeleton’s pressure points and ease pain a bit but when one is out in the garden and has one foot under an azalea bush and the other foot is in midair and must execute a one-legged bunny hop to land outside the garden, the little stretching drills do not help.
The reality is that, because humans have invented things like chairs, tables, chainsaws and elevators, we don’t use the muscles as they were intended. You know the trope: use it or lose it. As we age, stretching is important but it doesn’t help keep a body that is serviceable for daily life. If one is to be spiritually alert, strong and have a good feeling about one’s self, one must have muscle that works in the real world. So mariner proposes a muscle-based exercise rather than a joint-stretching one. The legal caveat: these exercises may not be helpful when recovering from injuries or operations.
If the reader has ever found themselves on the floor and literally can’t get up, e.g., mounting a lawnmower deck under the tractor or reaching the baby’s pacifier under the sofa or are prone to losing balance whenever the legs are off center, the following exercises performed every other morning may help:
- Squat thrust – Keeping your body over your knees, squat as close to the ground as possible. Place your hands on the floor and using them for balance, kick your legs back until they are straight behind you and your toes land on the floor. Once landed, quickly return to the original squat position and without hesitating kick the legs back again two more times. Then stand up, take a breath and repeat. Do this repetition five times as a beginner and work up to ten easily performed. In all exercises do not stop breathing and exhale at the point of maximum exertion. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4511oTkNls
- Weight-assisted squat – Find an object that you can hold easily and weighs five to ten pounds. Stand with legs ready to squat and hold the object at arm’s length in front of you. Squat as deeply as you can and immediately return to an upright position. Do ten squats at a slow pace. For a sample squat without the weight see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aclHkVaku9U
- Pushups – Compulsive jocks may do a full pushup hands to toes but mariner recommends using the milder version, hands to knees because many individuals have injuries and arthritis that may be aggravated. Lying flat on the floor, use your arms to lift the body off the floor so that only the hands and knees remain in contact with the floor. Lift until the arms are straight and keep the body straight throughout the lift. Work your way up to ten; do more to show off in front of friends. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyCG_5l3XLk
For upper back and posture issues, e.g., peeling potatoes without pain and remaining a fully erect hominid, here are a few exercises to help:
- Middle back. Have at hand a pair of small hand weights weighing two to five pounds each. Lay flat on your stomach with body straight to the feet. Stretch your arms out so you look like an airplane. Slowly lift the weights as high as possible without bending at the elbows, hold for two seconds then slowly drop back to the floor. Start with five repetitions but quickly build up to ten repetitions.
- Back and Shoulders. Find something that is easy to hold onto that can hang from your hands and down your back; a hand weight weighing ten to fifteen pounds would be perfect. Grasp the weight overhead and let it pull your arms down from over your head, letting the weight hang down your back. Very slowly lift the weight until your arms are straight above you. Very slowly allow the weight to fall down the back. Slow is better in this exercise. Do ten times; do more if you don’t feel satisfactory stretching of the upper back and arms.
- Shoe tie. This is all about balance. Put on a pair of string tie shoes; tennis shoes would be perfect. To tie the shoe, stand on the opposite leg fully straightened. Raise the target shoe to knee level but do not rest it on the other leg. Keeping the foot at knee level, tie the shoe. Repeat for the other shoe.
General posture is important and requires similar muscle-building exercises. These exercises are more difficult only because it requires constant attention to accomplish them:
- Easiest of these exercises is to walk at a comfortable pace for thirty minutes without stopping. Walk outside, not inside or on a treadmill. Walk every day; this exercise has meditative aspects to it. Distance is not the issue; mariner’s wife walks twice as fast as mariner. Walking together for exercise possibly may not be a shared experience.
- This is the most difficult exercise because you must do it constantly while awake for the entire day. Pretend there is an attached string at the center of the top of your head. Pretend that it kept in tension to hold your head as high as you can while keeping the chin in. Maybe God is pulling it or four eagles or an F-15.
- The strut. At the same time, push your chest out in front of your shoulders – all day whether sitting, standing, walking, etc.
You will find these posture exercises to be the most difficult because you must train your brain to pay attention constantly. It is important, however, because posture is what keeps the skeletal frame in place and enables muscle-centric health.
Mariner finds that the quads are the most diminished and need exercise if one is to be active or keep balance. The rewards are subtle but guarantee an enjoyable life in distant years. If the reader can sustain the effort, the posture exercises alone can improve one’s general well being.