Resolutions made in the dwindling hours of a New Years Eve party often stay in our consciousness for days, even months –until we either do something about them or they fade away. When you get home and look in the mirror are you reminded of a brand new baby, slightly pudgy and wrinkled- except you are not as apt to say, “Oh how cute” because that baby is YOU?
Perhaps this look in the mirror will give you the eye-opening push to say, “I’m really going to do something this time!” But what often follows this is wondering what will be different this time. If this isn’t your first attempt to make a change, and you weren’t successful the first time around, it’s hard to have the enthusiasm to work hard and sacrifice again. So, what can you do differently?
Let’s take a look. An understanding of how the body works can help tremendously in achieving your goals. The first and most important thing to recognize is that hidden within our enthusiasm to get moving on our goals is the demon of failure – due to wanting to be able to do everything all at once. In other words, you have to crawl before you can walk. In the same way, when you start an exercise regiment, it helps to work on a gradient.
For example, if we think of it in terms of going up a distance of say 50 feet, can you start at zero and jump up 50 feet into the air? Of course not, but if we walk up the side of a hill, we can ascend 50 feet in a reasonable fashion. In exercise, we create a plan of action of what we want to be able to do, and then set up a schedule that incrementally increases the level of activity at a reasonable rate.
All successful exercise programs are preceded by a regiment of proper stretching which turns on your body’s natural protective mechanisms. A little basic body science helps to illustrate this. Since muscle tissue can’t attach directly to bone as muscle, it transforms at the ends of the muscle into a tissue, called tendons. Tendons have properties of both bone and muscle so they can form the attachment of muscle to bone.
The body will always stack as much incredible ability into as little space as possible, which it does in the tendon. Within the tendon are specialized cells called tendon stretch receptors. These cells have the ability to monitor the amount of pull or stretch on the muscle and bone so to keep track of when you over-utilize the muscle to point where muscle and or bone could become damaged. These cells actually have the ability to diminish the nerve signal to reduce the force exerted by the muscle so we do not damage the body.
Most people do not realize that if our muscle contracts as fully as it is able in an uncontrolled manner, it has the capacity to crush our bones. While it’s one thing to read about such things in the scientific literature, I’ve had the occasion to witness something similar. Awhile ago, I had an epileptic patient that went off his special ketogenic diet, which is a high fat diet designed to help prevent seizures in epileptic patients. After having gone off the diet that had previously protected him, he had a grand mall seizure. In the course of his seizure, he broke the large bone in his upper arm in four places without slamming his body into any other objects. This is an illustration of how powerful your muscles are.
Muscles out of control will hurt you. The point here is that you must stretch prior to exercise to avoid injury from exercising. There are some who believe that if they start their exercise regiment slowly it will pass for a warm up stretch, but I disagree. There are specific stretches that stretch the core muscles and ligaments to help protect you. By doing these each day, I’ve found that I not only protect myself from common injuries that can afflict an active person but I also get about 50% more accomplished in a day.
The rule of thumb here is that you do these stretching exercises when you first get out of bed in the morning. When you stretch this way, you are protected right from the start of your day. But if more than 15 minutes has gone by before continuing the rest of your exercise program, you should do at least half as many stretches again. Our body is very energy efficient and the tendon stretch receptor cells which are activated by stretching will turn off after about 15 minutes of non-use. That is why re-stretching to turn on your tendon stretch receptors after a period of regular non physical activity is vital to your protection.
There is a lot of inaccurate data out there on the subject of stretching. The bottom line is that those who correctly stretch prior to any physical activity tend not to hurt themselves. And if you’re not injured in the process of doing something, your tendency is to do more of it, not less of it. This will help you achieve your goals.
We teach free monthly classes on stretching at our office. There is a class for beginners and a more advanced class. The other components to help you become successful in your resolutions include diet and detoxification which I talk about in my classes.
So now you have it, a road map to make the New Years baby in your mirror grow up to be that fit and attractive person that you want to see in the mirror. As Michaelangelo responded when asked how he created such beautiful statues, “I just remove everything that is not the statue and there it is.” So, there you are! Happy 2013!