Learning New Things: Hamstrings

I was never a person, even as a young girl, who could touch her toes.

As my body has aged, I have progressed from “naturally inflexible” to rigidly stiff and pained.  Yesterday The Lovely Daughter and I went hiking, on mildly strenuous trails through a rocky gorge.

nelson ledges

The downward trails were challenging to these achy knees and uncompromising thighs.  A couple of times I chose slides on my rear rather than attempts at navigating the trail.  And today ~ oh, I am feeling old!

I came home and did some reading.  Probably many of you are aware of studies showing that being able to rise from a seated position on the floor without using hands and tables and chairs for assistance is a sign of overall health and future longevity.  I gave it a try.  It appears that my demise is imminent.

This afternoon I educated myself about hamstring muscles, the muscles that help to form the backs of our thighs.  (How did we tolerate life before the internet, with libraries closed on Sundays?)  There are three of them, the hamstrings, and they wrap around and find their final resting place alongside the knee ~ and thus their stiffness accounts for not only mobility challenges, but also for knee pain.

And so I have a new yoga and stretching program, focused, to start with, on those poor hamstring  muscles.  It has occurred to me that, when I broke my ankle some years ago, the physical therapy required after surgery began with the smallest of (attempted) movements, repeated several times a day, and transformed me from someone who could not move her ankle even a fraction of an inch in any direction into a regular walker again.  It took months, but it happened.  Why not repeat the process?

My rapid decline is not inevitable, I think.  I have no ambitions like The Quiet Husband’s ~ he runs in senior track meets! ~ but I have modest goals for long walks and strength and flexibility.  Maybe even backpacking again.

With my newfound anatomical knowledge, I feel a slight surge of optimism.

 

Photo: Nelson Ledges in Northeast Ohio.

Healthy Aging

boots desert

It seems to have happened quickly, but my children pointed out last week that I have probably been making minor adjustments for a long time.  Sadly, they are correct.

I have been walking downstairs (unless the stairs are very short ones!) sideways ever since recovering from the ankle I broke four years ago, and it’s apparent that that particular style has nothing to do with my ankle and everything to do with my knees.

An inveterate walker, I have blithely taken off days and weeks with increasing frequency in the last year.

We took a family vacation to the California desert last week, and I abandoned two of our hikes altogether when they  involved steep ascents without any shade in sight, moved slowly on others, and fell asleep most nights before 9:00.

Some weird thing has happened to one of my knees, and they both hurt all the time.

Yikes!  I have become an old woman.

I have no plans to give up walking and hiking, so this is going to have to be the Year of Healthy Aging.  Better food, more exercise, lower weight, less stress.

 

Photo: Valley of Fire NV

 

Nature ~ I

My daughter and I went for a hike this afternoon, in a fairly new metropark ~ West Creek Reservation.  The trails are not yet well marked, and not visible in the snow, which has been packed down by boots wandering in many places beyond the official all-purpose paths.  Thus, despite the small size of the park, we got lost repeatedly.  We really have no idea where we went.

But it was a beautiful day, sunny and in the process of warming up considerably from the 20s of the past week.

As we neared the end of our hike, we saw a red-tailed hawk on the ground in the snow,  so still and immovable as we approached it that we thought it must be injured.  Suddenly! it took off and flew a short distance, weighed down by a squirrel which seemed much too heavy for it.  As things turned out, it was unable to fly more than a few wingbeats at a time, which it did, slowly making its way uphill and always keeping an eye on us.

We did not want to eat the squirrel, but we did enjoy watching the hawk!

rth-west-creek-030517

 

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