Posts Tagged ‘stretching’

My Poor Old Body

on December 2, 2012 in Misc 15 Comments »

You know what?  We writers sit way too much.  Especially when we also have day jobs where we sit all day at desks.

Too much sitting isn’t good for you.  It lowers your metabolism. It can lead to diabetes and other medical problems.  And in my case, it has shortened certain muscles that hurt like hell to stretch out again.

Remember my left leg and hip problem?

I told you a while back about how they were hurting.  Besides too much sedentary work, what hasn’t helped me is being a fencer, which means moving and lunging only on my right side.  Then there’s the very slight (3/8”) differential in my leg lengths.  So maybe it shouldn’t have been a big surprise last August when my left hip started giving me screaming aches and pains.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t screaming.  But I’m a writer and like to be dramatic.

Well, I ran through my insurance-allotted 12 physical therapy sessions pretty quickly, and some nutritional supplements also helped.  Now I’ve discovered that I only feel better not only when I keep up my therapy exercises but when I get into certain stretching positions and hold them … and hold them… and hold them….

Talk about a real pain.

See, the therapists were having me do a couple stretches that last 45 seconds, switch legs, then do again.  But for my body this is too wuss.  Instead I’ve found I should get into several different very uncomfortable positions and stay in them for three to six minutes each.  Then repeat that night.  And do other stretches during the day.

The funny thing is, I’ve always done stretches and have long considered myself to be fairly limber.  But it turns out I’ve only been taking care of this big muscles over here and that one over there, and meanwhile these little funky muscles I never knew about were shrinking like wool in hot water (aggravated by sitting and normal aging), and since everything in my body is connected, this shrinking muscle pulled on that one, which tightened up a tendon, which pulled another muscle out of whack… and so forth.

One small bonus:  I can only do these stretches while watching TV, and that gives me an excuse to watch some shows.  This is because I’m literally in a position where I can’t do much anything else because I’m on my floor mat in various pretzel positions and gripping certain body parts.

Anyway, I really am lucky.  I mean, it’s just aches and pains.  I know so many people – including teenagers – who’ve had knee replacements, or have blown out their knees skiing, or needed shoulder surgery, or elbow surgery, or their backs have hurt them for years.  One older guy in fencing has a bad back but he can still whup the tar out of me in every bout.

So let my sorry, sore body be a lesson to you.  As you sit at your computers and write your novels, get up frequently and MOVE and STRETCH and RUN AROUND THE HOUSE and whatever else feels good.  Your body will love you for it.

Yeah, I figured that title would get your attention.

I’ll summarize the innocent Layla doings first, then move on to the juicy stuff.

Now that spring is here I’m FINALLY getting back into Layla activities.  This means that on Sunday I woulda gone wall climbing if I’d had the time, but since I didn’t I at least studied French and had a solid workout with lots of stretching.

The stretching is important, but getting more limber has been a back-and-forth battle for me.  Any look at action heroes, martial arts, etc. tells you that being very limber is a fundamental necessity.  But now, at long last, I seem to be making consistent headway.  What seems to really work for me is simply…

Doing it till it hurts.

And by that I mean stretching my body, especially my legs and hips, not to the point of injury but to the point where muscles and tendons HURT.  I get into the necessary positions and push and pull and hold it and then go deeper and then ease up and then deeper again and make myself relax into the feeling of the stretch even when it really hurts.  And I hold it long enough until the pain eases… And believe me, I’m really making progress.

This kind of talk is also a natural segue for the porn topic.

In case any of you missed it, on Sunday there was a big article in the New York Times on something that depresses the hell out of me, to whit:  yet another small-time unknown writer has received a HUGE, MILLION-DOLLAR THREE-BOOK CONTRACT and all because she wrote a trilogy that I, also a small-time unknown writer, never thought to write.  And I bet you never penned such stuff either.

Her three novels (her being E L James) are about S&M erotica.  Wags are calling it “Mommy porn” and “Twilight” for grownups.

Here’s what happened.  James wrote the trilogy, which was put out by a small publisher in Australia, where she lives.  She couldn’t even get decent distribution for hard (no pun intended) copies of them, but they were available as e-books in the U.S, where they started selling like crazy even with no advertising or marketing.  This was enough for the Big Six American publishers to go apeshit and start bidding on them.

Sure, commentators have criticized James’ plodding prose, lack of content and pacing, and “have shredded the books for their explicit violence and antiquated treatment of women, made especially clear in the character of Anastasia, an awkward naif who consents to being stalked, slapped and whipped with a leather riding crop.” But hey, but who cares about literary details as long as the books sell?

By the way, that quote is from the NY Times, and here’s the link:

You know what’s really a joke to me?  How big publishers are supposed to be such experts on what sells and what doesn’t and how they keep trying to narrowly define genres that they tell writers to stick to.  But the fact is an obscure book often turns into a bestseller before the “experts” realize that readers are onto something.  That’s what happened with everything from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the self-published Mutant Message Downunder to the godawful Celestine Prophecy.

So for all you writers who want to get published, forget about subscribing to the useless Publishers Weekly and analyzing the market and honing your literary skills and polishing your manuscripts and perfecting your query letters.  Instead, you might as well just tell an imperfect story that comes straight from your heart.

Or from another body part.

The Stretching Angle

on December 14, 2009 in Misc 1 Comment »

Woman stretching

Here’s a quickie test.

Think about the fighting style of most male action heroes from James Bond to Bruce Willis to Matt Damon and so on.

Now think about the fighting style of all their modern female counterparts.  Add in the villainesses who physically fight both women and men.  Besides drop-dead gorgeous bodies, what do they have in common?

The women can all stretch like rubber bands.

Think about it.  Do you ever see James Bond kicking his leg over his head to hammer the bad guy in the kisser?  Does Will Smith whip off back handsprings to smash an attacker?  Indiana Jones certainly never fell into a splits while taking down a truck full of Nazis.

But that’s how the women fight.  They can splay their legs like their bodies are splitting in half.  Bend their backs like their spines are buttery goo.  Whirl like windmills, dive like swans, spin kick attackers into a demolition dream.

Women Fighters

Obviously there are men like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and their Western versions who  share this loose-limbed fighting style.  What they have in common with the ladies is martial arts.  They’re lethal because they’re  limber, use an opponent’s attacks and momentum against him or her, and move with devastating speed.  And all these reasons explain why women can rely on martial arts to even the playing field for them.  Years ago when I took intensive Tae Kwan Do for about six months, I learned how easy it was to break boards with my kicks and deflect an attacker’s moves.  I didn’t have bulky muscles and didn’t need them.

But back to the rubber band phenomenon.  In this category, how does my body measure up?

It depends on what direction you’re talking about.  The splits I can do – right or left leg.  Thus I can kick over my head.  I used to do a decent back bend, but years ago I got out of the habit of regularly doing a few a week and now my shoulders and back have stiffened up and I can no longer get into a decent one.  So a couple months ago I added back and shoulder stretches to my workout routines and the effort is making a difference.  I’m still only practicing halfway-down backbends against walls or the high back of an old armchair, but I’m making progress.

My chronic problem area is the side splits.  You know what I mean – when you’re facing forward and your legs are out at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions.  When I try to stretch into one, I can only start at a 90 degree angle and work out to maybe a 110 degree one.  And this isn’t a recent development.  For years I’ve stretched away, and while the rest of my body loosened up I’ve still – to my enormous frustration — always remained tight down in that part of the pelvis and upper thighs.  What I’ve long wanted to be like is Leslie Caron in An American in Paris when in one dance routine she effortlessly moves from splits to side splits to splits in the other direction as if she’s simply shifting her perspective.

This one area of tightness  may sound like no big deal, but I’ve found that it really has impeded some of my movements.  In parkour when I had to clamber around in quadrapedal movements, my side-stepping was limited and I sometimes felt uncomfortable twinges in the wrong places.  In Tae Kwan Do the tightness constricted my side kicks.  And I know that when I start climbing walls or whatever my inability to spread my legs loosely (and I mean that in the cleanest possible way) is again going to hamper me.

You’d think that the years of ballet I’d had when young with its emphasis on “turnout” would have unraveled the rock-hard knots that tie me up down there.  But nope.  Not a bit of it.  I can do pliés in second position till the cows come home but I still can’t do no 180 degrees – hell, I’d be ecstatic with 160 – side splits.

Per usual I must ask if Layla can do the side splits.  I didn’t really think about it when I was creating her, but the answer obviously has to be that she comes damn close to it.  If she can climb around buildings and get into forbidden places, she must have a body that can do what she commands of it.  From scaling walls to parkour-style escapes, she’s got the chops.

And that means I gotta go for the side splits.

So for the next few weeks I’m going to swallow my frustration and experiment like crazy with stretches.  I found a couple old articles and a book on the subject and they should help.  I’ll switch back and forth from static to dynamic stretching.  I’ll try stretching two or three times a day, and I’ll avoid injuries by going at it gently.  Then, if at the end of it all I’ve finally, genuinely loosened myself up by 20 or 30 degrees, I’ll consider my efforts a success.

Here ’s hoping for the best.